The Netflix documentary ‘Tony Robbins: I’m Not Your Guru’, premiered on Wednesday, July 13th, 2016.
The film follows the business strategist, Tony Robbins, in his mission to help as many people as he can to improve their lives. A majority of the film follows Tony’s ‘Date with Destiny’ seminar, which takes place over six days, with 2,500 attendees. Tony considers this one of his more intimate seminars, as his others usually have upwards of 7,000 people taking part. The director, Joe Berlinger, accomplished the almost impossible task of providing the audience with the essence of the intensive 6-day course in just two hours.
Although the documentary audience members cannot fully experience what the seminar is capable of without attending it in real life, seeds are planted in the audience’s mind, and the effect of the documentary is still profound. It is rare I have seen audience members in a cinema cry so consistently throughout a film, let alone a documentary, but almost everybody in the room (including an adorable lady sitting next to me with a dog) was bawling within the first 15 minutes.
To give you a little background on the main-man of the film; Tony came from a broken home; he had an abusive upbringing, and certainly did not live an easy life growing up. One day when he was in his teens, Tony disrupted a class, trying to impress a girl that he liked. The teacher pulled him aside, and instead of scolding him, told him he had never seen somebody grab the attention of a class for so long with no prior preparation. The teacher told Tony that he had a knack for communicating. This was a breakthrough for Tony, and he has tried to connect to other humans through effective communication ever since. Now, Tony is known worldwide for his life-changing seminars. He has helped numerous celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, and Joe, the director of the documentary – to name a few.
Tony has accomplished so much in his lifetime, and his anecdotes are humorous, intriguing, and inspirational. But very little of this was showcased in the documentary, and for very good reasons. Almost unheard of for any form of entertainment these days, the film is not about the protagonist, but how the protagonist can help you, the viewer.
The viewer is taken on a journey, one that they will go on with the members of the ‘Date with Destiny’ seminar. You will see day 1, when the seminar participants begin their six-day experience. When the doors to the conference room open, viewers pour through the door, rushing to get to the best seats – the need to get to the front mirrors concert-goers intense need to be right next to the stage. Before the attendees even see Tony, party music is blasted, turning the room into a club, where everybody is dancing, having a great time, and getting pumped up. This is just one of the many non-conventional techniques Tony uses to keep his clients engaged for a long period of time. Another example of this is the obscene language he sometimes uses, which helps him to quickly and efficiently grab everybody’s attention.
Throughout the film, we are shown footage of Tony outside of the conference, with employees of the seminar, and members of the documentary crew. At this point, we see Tony in “work” mode, not “speaker” mode. He explains the reasoning behind each part of his seminar; the audience sees how he caters each seminar experience to fit the crowd’s needs – making each conference he does unique and individualized.
Every day has a different focus: Growth, Contribute, Significance, Uncertainty, Certainty, and Love & Connection. For each of these days, we see at least one person, picked by Tony and his team; share their experiences and difficulties with the room. At the end of the film, we see where each of these people ended up one year later, so we can fully comprehend the impact that Tony’s philosophies had on their lives.
Perhaps the most critical day that Tony has, is the day when the seminar staff searches for people who exhibit “red flags”. Red Flags are people who may be suicidal. Tony explains that in a room of 2,500 people, at least 12 of them will be suicidal. During his seminar, he aims to speak to at least one of these suicidal people, and prevent this person from ever attempting to take their own life.
In the documentary, we see a woman who grew up in the ‘Children of God’ cult – she suffered emotional abuse since birth, and sexual abuse since the age of six. Although she escaped the cult her entire family became suicidal, including herself, to the extent that she had sold everything she owned to attend the conference, with no intention of ever returning home to her family. Tony encouraged her to change the way she viewed her traumatic experiences: to see them as a way to help others who have gone through similar experiences as she had. He offered to put her in touch with his friend, who would train her in therapy, and give her a profound purpose to remain alive on this earth. He showed her that she could be loved without ill intentions. By the end of that day, other attendees donated roughly $100,000 to her, so that she could begin her journey as a therapist. One year later, and she had written a hugely successful self-help book for women who have gone through tragic experiences.
Selflessness, love, acceptance. These were perhaps the most integral aspects of Tony’s conference, and they came from the environment he created – the camaraderie he encouraged among the audience. Every single person at that conference was so willing to help, and be helped, that transformative experiences were inevitable. By the end of the conference, a girl had repaired the relationship with her drug-addicted father; a woman broke up with her boyfriend who wasn’t right for her, and a couple had the best sex of their lives. Within just six days, lives were changed profoundly for the better.
Should you wish to watch this extremely inspiring documentary, it will be available on Netflix on July 15th, 2016. I highly recommend you watch it.