PAOLA DI FLORIO (Director)
Counterpoint Films founder Paola di Florio is an Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and television producer whose work has featured extraordinary individuals and the triumph of the human spirit. Di Florio’s films have been distributed theatrically throughout the world and featured in broadcasts on HBO, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, Sundance Channel, Court TV, TLC and A&E.
The New York Times described her work as “extraordinary” and “poignant.” The Los Angeles Times’ found it “deeply affecting, revelatory [and] gripping.” The Hollywood Reporter declared that it “should be required viewing for all Americans.”
Her documentaries (Speaking in Strings, Home of the Brave) feature the lives of strong, maverick women who impacted American culture. Her television work includes producing a TV series for Canal Plus entitled Directors on Directors, featuring unique portraits of Hollywood auteurs – including Sydney Pollack, Arthur Penn, Robert Altman, Michael Mann, and others – which was given a special screening at the Locarno Film Festival’s 50th Anniversary. Her independent films premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, garnered numerous awards and were honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Writer's Guild and the International Documentary Association. She has served on film juries and panels, including at the American Film Institute and has guest lectured at UCLA, USC, Berkeley, Stanford and other universities and conferences. She is also a founding partner of Nerd Girls, Inc., a New Media startup dedicated to creating new role models and empowering young women to enter the fields of science and engineering.
PETER RADER (Producer)
Peter Rader has worked as a film and television writer/director for twenty years. His first script,Waterworld, was produced by Universal in 1995. He has developed numerous projects for other studios, and industry leaders such as Steven Spielberg, Dino De Laurentiis, John Davis and Mario Kazar. He wrote and directed a remake of Escape to Witch Mountain for ABC/Disney.
Rader attended Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He has taught writing workshops and is accomplished in a broad range of fields, including music and photography. He worked as a cinematographer on a number of award-winning documentary projects. Rader also directed episodes of the hit nonfiction TV show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan and authored Mike Wallace: A Life, a critically acclaimed biography of the legendary CBS journalist published by St. Martin’s Press. Rader was subsequently hired to adapt his book into a script for director Rob Reiner. He is currently writing a second book for Simon & Schuster.
ABOUT THE FILM:
AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda is an unconventional biography about the Hindu Swami who brought yoga and meditation to the West in the 1920s. Paramahansa Yogananda authored the spiritual classic “Autobiography of a Yogi,” which has sold millions of copies worldwide and is a go-to book for seekers, philosophers and yoga enthusiasts today. (Apparently, it was the only book that Steve Jobs had on his iPad.) By personalizing his own quest for enlightenment and sharing his struggles along the path, Yogananda made ancient Vedic teachings accessible to a modern audience, attracting many followers and inspiring the millions who practice yoga today.
Filmed over three years with the participation of 30 countries around the world, the documentary examines the world of yoga, modern and ancient, east and west and explores why millions today have turned their attention inwards, bucking the limitations of the material world in pursuit of self-realization.
Archival material from the life of Yogananda (who died in 1952) creates a spine for the narrative, but the film stretches the dimensions of a standard biography. The footage includes stylized interviews, metaphoric imagery and recreations, taking us from holy pilgrimages in India to Harvard’s Divinity School and its cutting-edge physics labs, from the Center for Science and Spirituality at the University of Pennsylvania to the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. By evoking the journey of the soul as it pushes its way through the oppression of the human ego and delusion of the material world, the film creates an experiential immersion into the unseen realms. AWAKE is ultimately the story of humanity itself: the universal struggle of all beings to free themselves from suffering and to seek lasting happiness.