The Highest Pass

The Highest Pass

Riders pray at Ganga lake as seen in THE HIGHEST PASS, a film directed by Jon Fitzgerald. Picture courtesy Cinema Libre Studio. All rights reserved.

The Highest Pass

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The Highest Pass (2010/2012)

Opened: 04/27/2012 Limited

Limited04/27/2012
Monica 4-Plex04/27/2012 - 05/10/201214 days
Playhouse 704/27/2012 - 05/03/20127 days
Fallbrook 705/04/2012 - 05/10/20127 days
DVD08/28/2012

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Genre: Biographical Documentary

Rated: Unrated

The highest road in the world is within us, this whole journey is to know that. -- Anand

Synopsis

Soon after Adam Schomer meets a modern yogi and guru, Anand Mehrotra, they plan an expedition through the highest passes of the Himalayas in Northern India. These are some of the most dangerous roads in the world, yet they manage to assemble a team of seven motorcycle riders to share in what will become the journey of a lifetime.

These riders and Adam, who learned to ride two weeks before the trip, are guided by the inspiring teachings of Anand who bears the burden of a Vedic prophecy that predicts he will die in his late twenties in an accident. He is that age now, yet leads with a fearlessness and wisdom that reminds us that "Only the one who dies, truly lives."

But wisdom in words and wisdom in practice can be very different indeed, especially when riding along the sheer icy edges of Himalayan cliffs. The bikers ride on that edge, navigating dirt, gravel, snow, ice and the onslaught of loaded trucks, known as "road killers," as they journey for 21 days towards the highest motorable road on earth. It is a pass open only three months out of the year and at a height 18,000 feet, is on par with Everest's base camp. Low oxygen, altitude sickness, river flooded roads, and a constrictive fear all live along this one lane road.

Yet they choose this path to seek Ladakh, the land known as the Little Tibet. Why this path? Simply because it's a road that leads to isolated mountain lakes, ancient monasteries inside the knowing eyes of a mystic oracle and ultimately, to a deeper understanding of themselves.

It's amazing that their guide himself is battling a prophecy and yet is determined to ride one of the hardest roads in the world. It is both haunting and inspiring. It brings forth our worst fears and our deepest courage. Adam must ask if the possibility of a spiritual breakthrough is worth the risk of serious injury or death? Will it help us all understand what it means to live our lives?

This adventure cracks the foundations we think we stand on. And in this case, the foundation is a one lane road winding through the Himalayas -- The Highest Pass.

Director's Statement

I've never really been a fan of motorcycles, probably because my parents were in the medical field and never let me ride one -- too dangerous. But as I got older, I learned a bit more about the people who ride them, how it makes them feel, that sense of freedom and what it represents, the journey you could take, alone with your thoughts.

After graduating from college, I began to practice meditation and eventually yoga. Other than golf and writing, this was my alone time. It was my brief escape from the challenges I continued to reluctantly embrace. And still, I had never ridden a motorcycle.

When Adam first pitched the idea for The Highest Pass, I was hooked on the idea, and recognized the potential as a spiritual adventure with cinematic qualities. It certainly fit our mission statement -- to make socially relevant films that could affect positive change, either in people or in the world. After letting the idea sink in, I recognized how many obstacles we would face, challenges on every level, particularly from a production standpoint. Yet, I also knew, selfishly, that I would grow as a person through the experience of being led by a modern yogi into the most spiritual places of India sounded pretty amazing. Within a couple of weeks, we had agreed on some key story ideas and I signed on to finance and produce the movie with Adam.

While Adam rounded out the team of riders and prepared for his imminent departure to India, I worked on the nuts and bolts here in LA, accumulating gear and trying to find the right DP, which we did in Dean Mitchell. It was going to be filmed at extremely high altitudes, with harsh weather conditions likely, and also involved the filming of motorcycles. Dean had the experience and attitude we were looking for. A few weeks later, with mountains of gear, first Dean and then I met Adam and the rest of the team in Rishikesh, India.

The day I arrived, we already had a lot on the schedule. We were going to film Anand and the riders with the kids at the school, then interview the riders down by the river and have Anand talk about his prophecy. For me, that was a nice welcome to the birthplace of Yoga and a packed day of quality material. Adam had hired a B Camera and a few other crew members and shot some good footage before I arrived. One of the strengths of this production was the fact that the basic "trip" had been planned. While we didn't know all the obstacles we would face, at least we had a tentative road map. The next day, we left home base and the journey really began.

I have to admit, I did not come into the filming with any sense of fear, either consciously about the trip, or about what fears may have been lurking beneath the surface about other issues. Since I wasn't going to be on a bike, I wasn't afraid of crashing. I guess being at altitudes of 18,500 feet could have been a source of fear, but it wasn't. I was in good shape and had some Vicodin in the case of severe headaches. However, the fear was soon to come, from an unexpected place.

Starting with my pick-up at the airport in the pre-dawn hours, then 7 hours of weaving through traffic, motorcycles and the occasional cow, I quickly learned that just being on the roads posed the greatest danger. Of all the challenges that we would face, it's the traffic coming at you and the narrow roads that I hadn't anticipated, but it also turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of the trip. After several days of sitting in our van winding through the tiny mountain passes, horns incessantly honking for the constant turns, surviving what seemed like dozens of near misses daily, I relinquished the default instinct to worry. I let go. It was like a switch turned off and I was at peace with the journey. I couldn't control the cars or whether it was going to be my turn to go. The freedom was a relief.

During the first half of the trip, there was a sense that Anand was perhaps a step removed from the other riders. He was difficult to connect with emotionally and it was awkward at times for the riders to appreciate his way, his methodology. They really had to learn to trust him and it was fun to watch this unfold from behind the camera. The riders were focused on their safety and making it through the day in one piece while trying to embrace the occasional talks by Anand. But like any adventure, your connection deepens as the trip goes on. Every day had a set of obstacles, whether it was the rain, the snow, the fatigue or the riding at night. By morning, it was a fresh start, a new landscape, a new frame of mind. And sure enough, as the danger increased, emotions were more exposed and deeper connections were made between the riders, the crew and Anand.

It was great to see the exchange between Adam and Anand specifically -- the student and the teacher and the faith Adam put in Anand even in times of doubt. The mentor role really suited Anand, for Adam in particular. That was a key reason we made Adam the "hero" of the story. It was important to us that the documentary have a narrative feel and was also one of the main reasons I wanted to model Joseph Campbell and the "Hero's Journey." Fortunately for us, all of the elements were there. And Adam had accepted his call to adventure and was going through the stages of the journey. Part of that journey was for Adam to face his own fears.

Trust, along with fear, is really tested when Anand pushes everyone to Baralachala, the most dangerous mountain road in the world, not to mention the fact that the pass was not officially open. You could see the fatigue, the fear, yet the comraderie really shines through. From a filmmaker's perspective, it was great for us that Anand pushed them. I assumed we would eventually find our way down but there was no doubt, the thought of spending the night on that frozen mountain at 15,000 feet was not a pleasant one. We made it down, enjoyed the spirituality of Lamayuru, the meeting of the Oracle and the other challenges we overcame. It's safe to say that everyone involved in the trip has a new take on spirituality, on some level. I even rode on the back of a bike on our last day. That was inevitable, yet reassuring all the same.

Reaching "the highest pass" and the journey itself meant something different for each of the riders, the crew and for me as well as did Anand's prophecy. It's no secret that it's part of human nature to avoid our greatest fears. Some take longer to overcome than others, but a journey like this forces you to re-evaluate your station in life. We wanted to make a movie that would be entertaining, yet engaging enough on a spiritual level that audiences would be inspired to consider their challenges in a different way. We are living in an interesting period in human history, a difficult time albeit an exciting time. "Transformation" seems to be the buzzword, especially for 2012. Hopefully, The Highest Pass can play a role in that transformation, in whatever form that may be.

Biographies

Anand Mehrotra (The Guru)

Anand has grown up in Rishikesh, India the birth place of yoga. His family has been here for nearly 50 years. He was trained here by Yogis in the deepest and most direct lines of yoga and wisdom. He is the founder of Sattva Yoga (www.mysattva.com) and the founder a Rishikeshbased charity called The Khushi Foundation (www.khushi.org.in) Due out in 2012 is the first book in his series on freedom, The Free Life.

Anand currently teaches wisdom all over the world. Many yoga teacher training courses bring students to Rishikesh seeking out Anand to instruct. Likewise, when travelling in the US, he is sought out by teacher training courses for his wisdom and talks. Anand is also a master Vedic astrologer and is regularly consulted by lay people and fellow Yogis for his readings. He is truly amazing in that he possesses a brilliant youthful freedom that relates to modern audiences, while being deeply grounded in a simple wisdom. He inspires, rattles and makes us all laugh.

Anand spent most of his life learning from many of the great sages and Yogis in India. He was destined to be a teacher from an early age and began teaching at 16 years old. He studied under many Masters in the Himalayas and was initiated into several different yogic paths including Kriya, Sivananda, Shakti Tantra and Raja Yoga. He also studied Vedic Astrology and has since traveled the world doing astrology readings and giving lectures.

People are moved by his youthful energy and his powerful message. His teachings work toward dissolving the ego and the false belief systems that hold us back and expanding into an aware and liberated state of existence. The method is an inclusive approach to the lifestyles of today about inviting higher understandings into all facets of life. The vision of the teachings is to inspire a conscious awareness into the modern, everyday world.

More information can be found at www.mysattva.com.

Adam Schomer (The Student)

For Adam Schomer, The Highest Pass wasn't just about making a cool, adventure film. On the contrary, Adam was looking for something more, something deeper. And as the saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for." Despite the fact that Adam had never ridden a motorcycle, he agreed to go on a motorcycle trip through the highest motorable elevation in the Himalayas. It was down-right crazy for him to go having practiced riding a bike two weeks before the trip.

Adam studied Engineering and played NCAA Division I soccer for Cornell. A dorm room buddy introduced him to meditation to help him relax and Adam quickly embraced its benefits. He found it especially useful before soccer matches. Foregoing grad school, Adam eventually made his way to Los Angeles to work in the Entertainment business. Shortly after his arrival, he was inspired and determined to go to India. It was on this trip that he met Anand in Rishikesh. When he returned to LA, he had been affected by Anand's teachings and philosophy. He went back to India, this time alone, to study with Anand.

It was during those six weeks of early morning meditations by the Ganga River, yoga, jogging, wisdom talks that Anand turned to him and said, "I've been wanting to ride my motorcycle to Ladakh, the Manali-Leh road that crosses many treacherous mountain passes and leds to the highest mountain road in the world - Kardungla...you want to come?"

I don't ride motorcycles, I think they are dangerous, so I just said 'yes.'"

The Riders

Paul Greene

Living life for a bigger purpose, Paul is a father, Actor, film maker, accomplished pilot, musician/singer, photographer, and entrepreneur (featured in Success magazine). Paul has recorded two albums, and started 3 companies. Currently on several national, TV and Print campaigns, films and television shows. Born in Canada, he currently lives in Los Angeles with his son. Paul is a global citizen with an insatiable hunger for adventure, and has flown over 3,000,000 miles on commercial airlines. Anywhere feels like home.

Ariane De Bonvoisin

Ariane is a writer, entrepreneur and TV/Radio personality. She is the author of The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Any Change and has appeared on The Today Show and CBS and has been written about in USA Today, BusinessWeek and Oprah. She grew up in 6 countries, speaks 4 languages and has an MBA from Stanford. She has had several high profile jobs but is now much happier pursuing her dreams, living spiritually and going on crazy adventures all around the world.

Mike Owen

Mike has been an active stuntman in Hollywood over the pass 20 years. He has just finished shooting next year's highly anticipated "Gangster Squad." Currently, Mike is the stunt coordinator for Nickelodeons' TV sitcoms, "Bucket and Skinners' Epic Adventures' and "How to Rock". He is an avid bike enthusist where he rides the "spectacular" canyons of the Santa Monica mountains near his home in Woodland Hills.

Eric Braff

Eric is a father and husband and amazing graphic designer. He is a partner at Tectonic CD Motion in Seattle, Washington where he also teaches Thai Chi. Eric is ready for the next motorcycle trip with Anand, just say the word.

Brooks Hale

Brooks is a self made business man and Broadway producer who is now producing a play in China. Brooks lives in New York City and is an avid motorcycler and world traveler.

Rich Parkerson

Rich is an entrepreneur, owning his own technology company in Washington D.C. Not knowing the meaning of boundries, Rich not only is an adventurer, but can be seen playing music in his band, acting, and writing.

 

Trailer