At a glance, the premise of Swiss director Franois Kohler’s video documentary seems a trifle, well, wimpy. Thirteen French-speaking men of differing ages and nationalities—all strangers to each other—spend 15 days trekking through the Tunisian Sahara under the guidance of psychotherapist Alexis Burger, ostensibly to strip away all “masks” and get to the root of inner feelings. They accomplish this introspective feat through group exercises (ritual burnings, sumo wrestling) and frank fireside chatter. What results is a lot of New Agey bonding, man-hugging, and airing of anxieties about sex, women, societal expectations (and penises), many of which are rooted in daunting early experiences.
Touchy-feely but well meaning, Kohler’s docu-therapy expedition to the troubled heart of dudeness makes it clear that, in the post--Robert Bly age, a lot of guys feel quite comfortable divulging their hidden he-motions to other men. Yet nagging questions surface early on: Just who are these fellows, and how were they recruited for this journey of self-examination? Is this a privately paid personal retreat or a corporate outing? Is Burger an adventuresome shrink for hire or the men’s regular therapist? Unfortunately, Kohler’s platitudinous voiceover doesn’t clarify anything (his subjects aren’t introduced until the end credits), but at least we are privy to some good gab and, in one flabbergasting scene, a nervy, full-monty round of naked self-appraisal. (Now playing; Film Forum.)—Damon Smith