Published on December 1st, 2016


A Film Review of Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray

By Cleo Brown

Three-quarters of the way through ENLIGHTEN US: THE RISE AND FALL OF JAMES ARTHUR RAY, the motivational speaker and self-help guru, says several times: “I am responsible…I am responsible…I am responsible.” What he is taking responsibility for are the deaths of three people ( Kirby Brown, age 38; James Shore, age 40 and Liz Newman, age 40) at a spiritual retreat at Angel Valley in Sedona, Arizona on October 8th, 2009 in which he was the leader. Stating later that his conviction of negligent homicide in the deaths of two women and one man was the first time in United States’ history that such a conviction was achieved concerning adults who knew what they were doing, Ray, unabashedly declares that what happened to him had to happen so that he could grow as a person in the eyes of God.

No matter what one may think of Ray’s egocentrism, the fatalities that occurred would later shape Ray as a human being. In many ways,  Enlighten Us is a thorough and exhaustive study of James Arthur Ray’s metamorphosis, and sheds light on the many factors which led to his poor judgement on that fateful day. Directed by Jenny Carchman, the documentary will debut on CNN on Thursday, December 1st at 9:00pm and 11:00pm Eastern Time. There will be limited commercial interruptions.

Enlighten Us made its World Debut at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April, and was also featured at Film Festivals in Colorado and Kansas. The film will also stream via desktop at It will encore on December 3rd (Saturday) at 8pm and 12am Eastern; and it will be available on demand on Monday, December 5th, 2016. The producers of the documentary are Allyson Luchak, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Amy Entelis and Vinnie Malhotra. The documentary, which is in color, is 93 minutes long and is distributed by Josh Braun through Submarine.

As provocative as the CNN expose on cult and spiritual leader Michel of Buddafield in “HOLY HELL” had been, this documentary about James Arthur Ray takes events to the next level by interviewing directly and predominantly, Ray, through whom we get his side of the story. Gorgeous, charismatic, intelligent and spellbinding-it is easy to see how people lost their will; throwing their lives away at Ray’s insistence because he is a modern day Swengali. That he takes responsibility for his actions after spending almost two years in an Arizona Prison is extremely important for it causes viewers to continue to care about Ray and his outcome.

 ENLIGHTEN US:THE RISE AND FALL OF JAMES ARTHUR RAY is a powerful character study of one human being’s meteoric rise, fall and come-back. On a scale of from one thru ten, I rate ENLIGHTEN US a ten.

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About the Author: Cleo Brown is the movie reviewer for She lives in Manhattan and has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary African-American History from The University of California at Davis and has done work on a Ph.D. in education at The University of San Francisco. She has published several poetry books and is featured in Who’s Who in Poetry.

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