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Halloween Collection

Halloween Collection


By Nicole Ma and Michelle Mahrer

Kurtal - Snake Spirit tells the story of Spider, a sprightly 80 year old Aboriginal elder who travels from Fitzroy Crossing into the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia to visit a jila - a sacred waterhole. Spider is one of the main custodians responsible for the practices that take place there. For the first time, he is taking his family and community elders back to his birthplace, where he will communicate with their ancestors through Kurtal, the Snake Spirit in an ancient ritual.

This unique documentary examines the ongoing change faced by a remote Aboriginal community and their determination to maintain their close links to birthplace and country. It shows the passing on of traditional knowledge from father to son and grandson, and the vital and sustained connection to ancestry and customs. It is a celebration of strong tradition and culture thriving through the spirit and willingness of the next generation.

To Spider and his community, Kurtal is not only a snake spirit but also their dreaming song. It has powerful and mysterious forces at work. Water in the desert means life and Kurtal is a "living water". When people who were born at Kurtal die, their spirit returns to the waterhole. Spider is one of the remaining elders born at Kurtal and a key custodian responsible for the practices that take place there. For the first time, Spider is taking his family back to Kurtal to visit their ancestors' spirits.

Kurtal - Snake Spirit explores the evolution of the Aboriginal culture. It shows not the dying out of these ancient ceremonies but the need for them to be carried on by the younger generations. The spirit is strong in the elders to pass on their traditions and the spirit is strong in the younger generations to take these traditions and keep them alive and vital.

This poetic documentary provides a rare and moving insight into a community intent on maintaining its strong cultural links with the past.

Kurtal - Snake Spirit is co-directed by Nicole Ma and Michelle Mahrer, two multi award-winning filmmakers renown for their dance films with indigenous communities throughout the world. Beautifully photographed by Warwick Thornton, Michelle Mahrer and Cameron McGrath, this film takes a stunning look at a resilient group of people practicing ancient traditions in a contemporary society, and the immense impact this is having on their culture.

Kurtal - Snake Spirit is a unique documentary, providing an unprecedented insight into the private ceremonies and practices of a community intent on maintaining it's strong cultural and spiritual links with the past.

  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast, 2003
  • Best Documentary, Religion Today, International Festival of Cinema & Religion, Italy, 2003
  • Documentary & Ethnographic Film Festival of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2003
  • DC Independent Film Festival, Washington DC, 2004
  • The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, Oregon, 2004
  • Athens International Film & Video Festival, Athens, Ohio, 2004
  • UCLA Vitas Film and Folklore Festival, 2004
  • Parnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, Estonia, 2004

  • Australian Teacher's of Media (A.T.O.M) awards (Best Indigenous Resource, Best Short Form Documentary) 2002

    DVD (Color) / 2003 / 28 minutes

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    By Ricardo Leizaola

    A healer on healing, medicine & religion...Filmed in the modern city of Caracas, capitol of Venezuela, Uncle Poison is an intimate portrait of a traditional faith healer, set against the backdrop of his community's Easter celebrations. Every day Benito Reyes receives people at his house looking for all sorts of cures. Through his own testimony this documentary looks at the healer's role as mediator between the social, natural and spiritual worlds. Curing someone or harvesting medicinal leaves, he must first seek permission from the plants he uses and from a variety of Saints. And Like some plants and spirits, Benito has the power to extract the sickness and spells from his patients. A conjunction of sacred and profane, celebrating and mourning, Easter provides a rare opportunity to look at traditional faith healing in a wider social and religious context. The film suggests an underlying cultural rationale behind a broad spectrum of apparently contradictory health related practices, where man and the environment are inextricably linked.

  • 2001 Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Paris.
  • 2000 March 7th International Festival of Ethnographic Film. RAI - SOAS London.
  • May 2000 Gottingen International Ethnographic Film Festival Germany.
  • 1999 AAA Annual Meeting. Society for Visual Anthropology. Chicago, USA. November.
  • Mostra Etnografica. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. September.
  • The 19th International Nordic Anthropological Film Festival Arhus, Denmark. June.
  • Tel Aviv Documentary Film Festival. University of Tel Aviv. May.
  • Society For Latin American Studies. Annual Meeting. Cambridge. April.
  • Premiere. Bolivar Hall, London. March.
  • Seminar/Pre-view. Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. Manchester. February

    DVD (Color) / 1999 / 60 minutes

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    By Yasuhiro Omori

    Ms. Taki Kudo says she has been able to connect with deities since she was six or seven years old. Even in modern Japan, mediums like Ms. Kudo are in demand, providing such traditional services as expelling a curse and invoking spirits for health and long life. At twice-annual rituals at Mt. Osore-Zan, she and other female spirit mediums allow the dead to speak through them, relaying insight, comfort and warnings from the deceased to their loved ones. Another important duty is caring for the mulberry-wood Oshirasama puppets representing individual souls. Ms. Kudo dresses and stores the puppets and performs the lively rites in which spirits come down from the mountain in order to protect and purify the people of her village - the deities are cajoled by offerings of food, lights, money and candy.

  • First Prize, Margaret Mead Film Festival, American Museum of Natural History, 1994
  • First Prize, Bilan du Film Ethnographic, Paris, 1995
  • Third Prize, Nuoro Festival, Nuoro, Italy, 1996

    DVD (Color) / 1992 / 93 minutes

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    By Karen Kramer

    For centuries, the religion of Vodou (commonly called "voodoo" by outsiders) has been thought of as sticking pins in dolls or witchcraft. It has been kept underground and practiced in secret, giving way to much misunderstanding and sensationalism. This documentary - the first of its kind - shows how Vodou is a valid and serious belief system. The film interweaves exciting Vodou ceremonies, important scholarly information, compelling music, and images of colorful ritual objects, to show the beauty behind what has been one of the world's most misunderstood religions.

    Legacy of the Spirits traces the religion from Africa to Haiti to New York City. It explains the theology of the religion, the meaning of the rituals, the pantheon of spirits, possession, the sacred drawings (called ve-ve), the Catholic influence, the history of persecution and more. This is all explained by priests and priestesses who practice Vodou and who give the film the quality of being both informative, yet personal.

    Filmed entirely in the Caribbean communities in New York City, participants speak of what the religion means to them and their families, how the spirits have helped them, and why they continue to practice these ancient traditions today. Since the religion has always been kept underground (the reasons why are explained in the film), this is the first time the practitioners have spoken about it openly on camera.

  • Festival dei Popoli, Florence, Italy

    DVD (Color) / 1985 / 52 minutes

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    By Robert Gardner and J.F. Staal for The Film Study Center at Harvard University

    This film records a 12 day ritual performed by Mambudiri Brahmins in Kerala, southwest India, in April 1975. This event was possibly the last performance of the Agnicayana, a Vedic ritual of sacrifice dating back 3,000 years and probably the oldest surviving human ritual. Long considered extinct and never witnessed by outsiders, the ceremonies require the participation of seventeen priests, involve libations of Soma juice and oblations of other substances, all preceded by several months of preparation and rehearsals. They include the construction, from a thousand bricks, of a fire altar in the shape of a bird.

    Around 1500 B.C., nomads who spoke an Indo-European language entered India and evolved a complex ritual involving the cults of fire and Soma, a hallucinogenic plant that grew in the Western Himalayas. Their Vedic language developed into Sanskrit, the classical language of Indian civilization. Among the later religions of India, Hinduism accepted and Buddhism rejected the Vedic culture. But both retained many of its ritual forms and recitations. Some of these have traveled all over Asia. Agni, the fire, is still worshipped with the help of Vedic mantras in Japanese Buddhist temples. In India itself, the preservation of the Agnicayana, though partly explained by the extraordinary conservatism of the Vedic Brahmins and their dedication to the culture of their spiritual ancestors, remains one of the miracles of history.

    Robert Gardner of Harvard University is an ethnographic filmmaker (Dead Birds and Rivers Of Sand) and Frits Staal of the University of California, Berkeley, is a philosopher and Sanskrit scholar (Exploring Mysticism and Agni, The Vedic Ritual Of The Fire Alter).

    DVD / 1976 / 58 minutes

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    By Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon

    Pretending to be shamans, a group of young boys imitates their fathers, blowing ashes into each other's noses and chanting to the hekura spirits.

    DVD (Color, With Study Guide) / 1974 / 7 minutes

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    By Jef and Su Doring

    This film offers a visual exploration of the daily lives of the Bedamini, on the Great Papuan Plateau. In 1972 there were about 3800 Bedamini speakers, living in 60 long house communities scattered throughout 700 square kilometers of tropical rainforest. A longhouse community consisted of from 20 to a hundred individuals, and its site shifted every three or four years in order to clear new gardens. Bananas, the principal crop, were supplemented by taro, yams, sweet potatoes, and sago. Protein was obtained by hunting, gathering, and fishing. Tidikawa, a gesame or spirit medium is the focus of the film. Spirit mediums are men who communicate with ancestral spirits through spirit children, who speak through the medium's body when the later is in trance.Tidikawa's days are not sole devoted to his practice as a medium. We follow him as he and his friend Haifi spend their time in work and relaxation around two longhouses, as men hunt in the forest, women garden and collect sago, huge timbers are felled with steel axes, a father plays with a baby, tobacco is smoked, a child dies. The funeral is held; the parents mourn. Tidikawa's spirit child speaks at a seance, and an initiation ceremony, Golyagi, is held. Wrists bound with rattan, bodies painted, and hair covered with bark wigs, 7 boys are initiated into manhood

    DVD (Color) / 1972 / 50 minutes

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    Director: Arthur Robison
    Starring: Fritz Kortner, Gustav von Wangenheim, Ruth Weyher
    Composer: Donald Sosin

    German expressionist cinema was at its height in the 1920s, and few films embodied the movement as much as Warning Shadows. Directed by Arthur Robison, this classic tale of psychological horror remains his best known work, celebrated for its outrageous visual style and notorious for its attempt to make a purely visual feature film - in other words, a film with no intertitles (except, of course, the opening credits).

    A mysterious traveler and illusionist who performs shadow puppetry arrives to provide some entertainment at an otherwise routine dinner party. The host of the party is already mad with jealousy over the presence of his wife's four suitors, but when the puppet show begins, passions overtake reason and reality is not what it appears to be. Shadows, reflections and silhouettes are the dominant imagery, and the film boasts the extraordinary camerawork of Fritz Arno Wagner, the German cinematographer who is renowned for his work with Fritz Lang (Spies, M) and F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu).

    DVD (Black and White) / 1923 / 85 minutes

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    Director: John S. Robertson
    Starring: Charles Lane, John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Nita Naldi
    Composer: Rodney Sauer

    Considered by many to be the first great American horror film, John S. Robertson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde allowed stage legend John Barrymore to deliver his first virtuoso performance on film.

    Blending historic charm with grim naturalism, this version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is one of the more faithful of the many screen adaptations of Stevenson's story, recounting a visionary scientist's ill-fated attempts to unleash the human mysteries that dwell beneath the shell of the civilized self.

    Mastered from a 35mm negative and complemented with a wealth of supplemental material, this Video edition beautifully showcases the dramatic brilliance and gruesome thrills of this influential American classic.

    (Musical score compiled by Rodney Sauer and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra)

    DVD (Black and White) / 1920 / 73 minutes

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    Director: F. W. Murnau
    Starring: Max Schreck

    A cornerstone of the horror film, F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU is triumphantly reborn in this breathtaking new restoration by the F.W. Murnau Foundation. Backed by an orchestral performance of Hans Erdmann's 1922 score (recorded in 5.1 stereo surround), this edition is derived from a new high-definition transfer of Murnau's masterpiece, with unprecedented visual clarity and historical faithfulness to the original release version.

    DVD (Black and White) / 94 minutes

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