Seeing Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April marked the first time I ever walked out of a Joe Berlinger film. I’ve been a fan of the Paradise Lost trilogy co-director (along with the late Bruce Sinofsky) since discovering the team’s 1992 doc Brother’s Keeper decades ago. And in fact, my fleeing from the theater 40 minutes into the sold-out screening of Berlinger’s behind-the-scenes look at the non-guru’s yearly “Date with Destiny” mega-seminar had nothing to do with the skilled documentarian’s filmmaking.
It had to do with his subject. Tony Robbins, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a superstar in the motivational speaking and self-help world. His Wiki page cites his naming to the Forbes “Celebrity 100” list back in 2007, the year he earned around $30 million. Though his subject did not attend the screening, Berlinger did, joking in his intro that this was not “another feel-bad Berlinger film,” and further urging us not to sit there “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Unfortunately, I found myself praying for the other shoe to drop.
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