Ignited by the events of 9/11, independent filmmaker Roger Nygard travels around the world to places like Jerusalem, China and Rome to take a non-judgmental look at what various disparate people think about the most provocative questions of life: Why do we exist? What’s the difference between science and religion – and can they co-exist? What is the definition of God? Who is the Devil? What is faith? Is Holy Scripture really true? What is morality? What is sin? Do we have free will? Why is there genocide? Does prayer work? Do animals have souls? And is there an Afterlife?
Nygard’s previous film, “Trekkies” (1997), delved into the “Star Trek” realm, revealing its amusing community of devoted fans. While his investigative quest has now expanded into metaphysics, he maintains an amused equanimity about and deep respect for those whom he interviews, representing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and others. That list includes sci-fi writers, scientists and musicians, along with confrontational college campus evangelist Brother Jed Smock; Rob Adonis, founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling in Athens, Georgia; Carl Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyen; actress Julia Sweeney; the Archdruit of Stonehenge; India’s guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; and Michael Schermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine.
Introducing his own religious upbringing, he says he was raised in an Episcopalian family, “which is sort of like Catholic-lite.” Drawing on his experience editing “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Nygard ironically juxtaposes contradictory answers, emphasizing that – in his search for truth – he knew all along that there would be a myriad of answers, although the clearest and most concise comes from seventh grader Chloe Revery, who expresses herself with clarity and conviction, noting, “I think truth is what we are all searching for, isn’t it? Even though it is sometimes more fun to search than to actually find it.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Nature of Existence” is a humorously spiritual 7, a journey encompassing ancient and modern belief systems, laws, politics and religion, which should lead to an interesting discussion after the closing credits.