Film fest surprises everyone with a great laugh

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
February 27th, 2011

Laughter rang out on Sunday as the No Boundaries Film Club presented Laughology, a nice break in a range of films tackling tough subjects. During a weekend of intense documentary films about social, economic, and environmental issues at the World Travelling Documentary Film Festival the crowd giggled and chortled continuously – at least for one hour.   It seems people of the world don’t get enough time to laugh. The seriousness of our lives in the current high-tech, high-speed global economy with threats of terrorism, natural disasters and drive to succeed have clouded people’s ability to reach into their happy zone, at least according to Canadian Albert Nerenberg who directed Laughology. The documentary explores the rise of the world wide laughter movement and the new science about the health benefits of laughter at a time when the world needs a good laugh.  The film was nicely paced and enjoyable to watch – after all who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh! While Nerenberg took you on his journey to discover the origins of laughter, its importance in our lives, and even to explore science and culture linked to laughter, the film offered a lot of fun filled moments of people – well – just laughing.  Nerenberg kicks off the film observing his baby daughter whose laughter at only a few months old intrigued him to find out the science of the phenomenon. Laughter is a developmental phase for all humans, he found, even for babies who may be blind or deaf, leading him to conclude that it is an instinctual response and not learned.  Although the movie covers some of the reasons that people have ‘lost their laugh,’ Nerenberg spends more effort on the exploration of health benefits of laughter, including reduced risk of heart disease, and the neuroscience of brain activity related to laughing. The film explores cultures that encourage laughter such as the Inuit and peoples in Tanzania where there was said to be a laughing epidemic at one time.  Laughter as a way of healing is introduced, and with the benefits of modern science, the concept of laughter as medicine takes form. From the neuroscientists demonstrating the contagious quality of laughter, to Dr. Madan Kataria who plays a large role in the film, talking about his reasons for becoming a laugh doctor, and the development of laugh yoga (see Laughter Yoga,) the film takes an intriguing look at something most people ignore.  The film is not just an interesting light-hearted romp in a sarcastic tone – it provides good scientific reasoning to encourage all of us to ease up in our lives and take a more relaxed approach to the intensity of modern day existence. If the cave people used laughter as a way to demonstrate to others that they were peaceful, modern interactions show that people laugh more in each other’s company, and science shows that laughter has health benefits, then laughter is an important social factor.    The range of experts Nerenberg employed in the film provides even the most sceptic with evidence of the role in laughter in physical well-being, but there was never a drag on the upbeat, playful tone that kept everyone engaged in this visually-stimulating short film.  If you ever doubt the contagious effects of laughter just watch the YouTube of Doug Collins – the Laughman – and try not to laugh. Just try.  No Boundaries Film Club presented the World Travelling Documentary Film Festival from Friday Feb. 25 through Sunday, Feb. 27 at the Grand Forks Senior Secondary School theatre. Sixteen films were viewed over the three-day event.  Links:  Laughology Laughter Yoga

The Laughman