SXSW Film Review: Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Doc on longtime life coach surprisingly straight forward

Tony Robbins curses like a construction worker caught in traffic. Tony Robbins calls men out for being weaklings. Tony Robbins holds damaged people (male and female) in his arms and offers comfort. Tony Robbins is the dictionary definition of charisma.

Which all adds up to the perfect documentary subject. Joe Berlinger, who's made gritty docs Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost, recognized that potential and poured it into Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, which, in a surprising twist, casts an admiring gaze on the longtime self-help coach. The film focuses on Robbins' grueling six-day “Date With Destiny” seminar that set back attendees almost $5,000 each. The group-healing exercise harks back to Werner Erhard's "est" training from the Seventies, with tough love mixed in with lots of listening and hand clapping. Berlinger gives us just enough of Robbins' personal story: a rough childhood, his discovery by a high school speech teacher, and his current palatial Florida home. Robbins comes across as both driven and caring, but the skeptics will still find much to question, and that's part of the film's strength. In the end, it's the seminar participants' stories that make this a compelling film that should raise healthy discussions when it airs on Netflix in July.

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Headliners, World Premiere
Thursday, March 17, 11:30am, Marchesa
Saturday, March 19, 1:15pm, Stateside

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at

More SXSW 2016
SXSW Film Review: <i>I Am a Hero</i>
SXSW: I Am a Hero
Japanese zombie flick takes Midnighters prize

Richard Whittaker, March 23, 2016

SXSW Film Review: <i>Carnage Park</i>
SXSW: Carnage Park
Mickey Keating's take on classic American horror

Richard Whittaker, March 23, 2016

More SXSW Film 2016
SXSW Film Review: <i>We Are X</i>
SXSW: We Are X
Music doc explores the biggest band you never heard of

Richard Whittaker, March 23, 2016

SXSW Film Review: <i>The Master Cleanse</i>
SXSW: The Master Cleanse
The perils of purification

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 19, 2016

More by Joe O'Connell
<i>The Son</i> Rises With Philipp Meyer
The Son Rises With Philipp Meyer
Austin author on adapting his award-winning novel for AMC

April 7, 2017

SXSW Film Review: <i>David Lynch – The Art Life</i>
SXSW Film Review: David Lynch – The Art Life
Doc excavates the creative mind of the eccentric artist

March 14, 2017


SXSW 2016, SXSW Film 2016, SXSW, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)