1893 The Year of the Yogi: the definitive historical movie on yoga’s arrival to the West.

1893 The Year of the Yogi: the definitive historical movie on yoga’s arrival to the West.

Director’s statement by Nicholas Oscoff

It was 1893 when Swami Vivekananda introduced America to the knowledge of ancient India,
heralding one of the most radical seeds of change to the fabric of American culture in her
history. By bringing together two vastly different worlds Vivekananda initiated a spiritual
revolution which started in America and has since spread across the globe.
From films like Star Wars and The Matrix, to the music of the Beatles, to Aldous Huxley’s Brave
New World, to the popularity of mindfulness and meditation – yoga has been a great source of
inspiration and knowledge for the West since it arrived. Despite yoga’s steady rise into the
zeitgeist of Western culture over the past 100 years, this story remarkably has yet to be told on
1893 The Year of the Yogi serves as the definitive historical centerpiece on yoga’s arrival to the
The journey towards making this film started several years ago. I have been a seeker, and
drawn to Indian philosophy and religion since I was in my teenage years in the early 1990’s in
California. It was my mother who gave me a book by Deepak Chopra, and until then I had never
read anything like it. The metaphysics and the Indian spirituality I found in that book set me on
a path. I started reading about Hinduism and Buddhism and I was deeply drawn to the idea that
God is to be sought inside our own selves. A very radical concept back then!
My father is Egyptian and my mother Italian, so I had a multicultural upbringing which included
travel to their home countries quite often. Going to India seemed like a natural next step for me,
and so I went. What a place! From that first trip I have been going every few years and I feel
India to be my spiritual home, and the fact that I was born in America has allowed me to live as I
often say “with one foot in the East and one in the West”.
It was not until about 15 years ago that I was introduced to Sri Ramakrishna. I was given a
book called The Great Swan by Lex Hixon, and that book seemed to put me in the room with
him. There is a quality to Ramakrishna that is difficult to put in words, but I felt both to know him,
and that he knew me. I went on to read anything I could get my hands on including the Gospel
of Sri Ramakrishna, the Lila Prasanga as well as other books on Swami Vivekananda, Ma
Sarada, Swami Brahmananda and others. I can say with clarity and sincerity that Ramakrishna
is my guru, and he has answered all my questions. To be clear, knowing the way does not
mean I am always able to walk it!
In my twenties I earned a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from a University in Paris, and
subsequently worked for a time at the UN. After some time I felt restless there, needing
something more dynamic. Several synchronicities later I found myself working in the film trade,
where I have been for the past fifteen years. I always felt that stories had the highest capacity to
create real change in the world, because stories touch us on an emotional and spiritual level
and that is the most meaningful catalyst for any shift in awareness that leads to changes in
outlook and behavior.
One day about seven years ago I had the idea to make a documentary film about Sri
Ramakrishna. I began writing, but soon I realized that for a Western audience the best way into
this story is through Swami Vivekananda. It was he who came to the West and won over
American hearts and minds. His is such an American story, and the impact he had is so
profound and little known that this film must be made. Several years later my partners and I are
deep into production, have interviewed several of the leading Swamis in the Vedanta centers,
have partners in India who are helping bring to life Swamiji’s story through animation, and have
a clear vision on what this film is, who it is for and why it is a timely and well placed project.
We hope to release the film in 2023. In order to do so we need support from the community
both financially and in spreading the word about the film. If you feel called to be part of this
venture please let us know!
PS: This is the first of several films we have in mind to make over the next 10 years, all of them
rooted in the Indian Dharma and the potential that it has to bring expanded awareness to people
all over the world.

About author:

Nicholas Oscoff is director and creative producer of the movie “1893 The Year of the Yogi”. He has been working in the film space for over a decade producing commercials, branded content, documentary, and new tech (VR).

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