(Copeland) I get the impression the “I” in the title is a double entendre; if it is, would you elaborate?
(Cahill). Yes; we use “I” to speak of ourselves; it’s the name we give ourselves. The eye also gives us a sense of ourselves—it’s the source of our identity. As an example, I have a little baby girl, and notice how important eye contact is for her. When newborns first look at you, they look directly into your eyes—not your mouth or your wrist or anything else—but your eyes. They seem to know right from the beginning that the eye is the source of who you are.
(Copeland) Have you found that the eyes can be a window to the soul?
(Cahill). I think they can be. When you look deeply into someone’s eyes--you may notice when you first meet a person sometimes you feel a deep recognition, a familiarity with
them that suggests that centuries have been spent in their company. Sometimes you just feel peaceful, invited in. That staring—we don’t have a narrative that explains it—but this is actually what the film I Origins is about. It’s a narrative that addresses this aspect of the eyes.
(Copeland) You have a varied background and experience in many aspects of filmmaking: writer, director, editor, cinematographer, producer. How does this experience manifest itself when you’re directing a film?
(Cahill) As a director, more than anything, your task is to be in charge of the vision and voice of the film, to insure its emotional truthfulness. In my work with actors—who are very good—their bodies and voices are instruments to convey that truthfulness. The work they do is triumphant; it makes things real, not fake. It makes the director’s job easier, and gives authenticity to the work.
(Copeland) In your films, you deal with questions about life—why we’re here and how philosophy, spirituality, and evolution come together, and you do it in a very artistic way. These might be questions you have in your own mind. Are you making progress personally in coming to any conclusions?
(Cahill) Wonderful question! I feel very similar to scientists. When they turn over a rock, they may find a whole universe beneath it. During this exploration, they find more questions. At some point, you realize that the exploration is the destination. The goal is to be engaged heart, mind, and spirit, as opposed to being numb or disinterested. This is the wealth of a rich life.
Have you made up your mind about reincarnation—which is something suggested in I Origins?
(Cahill) I’m a storyteller and an Irish Catholic. My movie is science fiction; it’s a narrative meant to make the viewer feel or act as if. Whether or not reincarnation is true, I leave that to the experts. It’s more an exploration on my part.
I was taken by the question put to Ian Gray in the film: “What would you do if something spiritual disproved your scientific beliefs?” Did this question come from your own journey—or perhaps did someone actually say that to you at one time?
(Cahill) I had read an autobiography by the Dalai Lama. He stated that in his writing. I thought it was a brave thing for a spiritual leader to say [something like] “If you can disprove me, I surrender—I’m wrong.” It’s rare for people with specific spiritual beliefs to say something like that—which is not a sign of weakness, but a strength. It was very profound and moving to me. Scientists believe in truth, and if there were something spiritual that came up that is proven, they will accept it. I have concluded that there are times when science and spiritual beliefs can be congruent.