Documentaries of Note

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There are two new documentaries being released that should be of special interest to my reading audience. The first is a documentary concerning the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley. The film, “In Search Of The Great Beast 666”, purports to reveal the “shocking facts” about one of the most influential Britons of all time.

Surprisingly, it seems that despite the melodramatic press copy, the film is actually pretty decent according to a review at Lashtal (home of the Aleister Crowley Society).

“So, what of the film itself? Well, the narration is provided with typical workmanlike skill by Joss Ackland. Rather than following the usual dry format, the time flies past as a result of some really rather impressive reconstructed period interview: actors playing some of the most significant parts. This is so much more watchable than the usual voiceover extracts and works rather well … Especially good is the account of the events leading up to the reception of Liber AL and the attempted ascents of K2 and Kangchenjunga.”

The film is available for purchase in Britain now, no word yet on an American release*.

The second film covers the thorny subject of cultural appropriation. “Spirits For Sale”, tells the tale of a Swedish woman who receives an eagle feather from a Native American visiting her country. Feeling that perhaps the item shouldn’t belong to her, she journeys to different Indian communities in the Americas and explores how the growing popularity of “Native American spirituality” within New Age communities in Europe is actually a form of cultural theft and exploitation.

Image from the “Spirits for Sale” web site.

“The information in Europe about Native Americans and Native Canadians is most often full of fantasies and lies. People in general know very little about American Indians and their general view is based on stereotypes, mascots and film cliches. In some cases the belief is that ‘Indians do not exist.’ Europe has also seen a growing interest in so called Native American spirituality. Ceremonies and rituals together with sacred objects are being sold on websites and in papers. Cults and organisations offer people to become ‘an Indian shaman’ or a medicine man during a weekend course. Seldom or never do Native voices get heard and because of the lack of information, con-men make a considerable amount of money while they violate the spirituality of mostly Plains Indians. This film will address the issue of spiritual exploiters and the harm they do towards Native cultures but also to followers who, in many cases, ‘don’t have a clue’.”

The film is having its American debut at the South Dakota Film Festival on September 22 2007. No word yet on further American showings, or when a DVD will be released. Thanks to Kathryn Price NicDhana for tipping me off about this documentary.

* Also of note is the fact that prog-rocker turned evangelical Christian Rick Wakeman provided the soundtrack, which merited a bit of controversy for the now-devout keyboardist.