It's possible to pull a stunt that affects real people's lives without the one responsible for the stunt looking like a complete jerk but director Vikram Gandhi doesn't display the compassion, or the guts, necessary to do it in his cruel documentary "Kumaré."
Gandhi, a New Jersey-raised filmmaker, filmed gurus in India and became disillusioned with the idea of following an imperfect human teacher. To make a point about the fallibility of gurus, he turned himself into a fake swami named Kumaré, setting up an ashram in Phoenix, arranging teaching gigs in Arizona yoga studios, inventing some phony yoga moves, and slowly collecting a group of 14 disciples.
Gandhi tries to telegraph his fraud, with Kumaré's teaching that "you are your own guru," but he doesn't bargain on the damage he might have on the troubled followers who will grasp at any straw, especially if it's someone who appears to be listening to them.
In the end, Gandhi expresses some remorse for stringing these poor souls along, but it's too little too late to atone for this reality-show humiliation.
Opens Friday, Aug. 10, at the Tower Theatre; not rated, but probably PG-13 for mature themes and language; 84 minutes; visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.