2014, Thu, Dec 11

Schamanen im blinden Land (Shamans of the Blind Country)

Michael Oppitz

Schamanen im blinden Land (Shamans of the Blind Country), film still | © Promo

Schamanen im blinden Land (Shamans of the Blind Country), film still | © Promo

Shamans of the Blind Country is an epic documentary film about magical healing processes in the Himalaya. The first part of the film examines the repertoire of elaborate rituals with which the healers of the Magar, a society native to the mountain valleys of western Nepal, confront the problems of illness, affliction, and death. The second part pursues how one becomes a shaman, what tests one must pass to be accepted into the circle of the chosen, and how the wide range of oral traditions and ritual chants is passed from one generation to the next. The séances observed in part one offer a view into the methods of diagnosing sickness and misfortune; the techniques of communicating with benevolent and malevolent spirits; the combative, cunning struggle against negative powers; and the means by which the depleted life force of patients can be regained.

Part two focuses on the process of an initiation – taking as an example the ritual birth through which a young woman becomes a shaman. Both parts of the film – healing practice and initiation – are carried forward on the recitation of primeval myths, whose stories provide the spiritual map for the ritual acts of the present. At 223 minutes, the length of the film corresponds to the duration of the shortest sessions of the Himalayan healers, the more extensive of which can last for three days and three nights. Shamans of the Blind Country premiered in 1980 and was restored in unaltered form in 2014. It is considered a classic of ethnographic film.

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