Third Eye: Spirituality, Magic and Witches

Juniper Tree, dir. Nietzchka Keen
Visual Front at the 19th New Horizons International Film Festival Olivier Assayas: 5 key films

This year's New Horizons takes a closer look at portraits of the body and corporality in film. The program includes many films about relationships with the body or the bodies of others and Third Eye, a section that looks a little askance at the modern world, examines realms that escape the physical body, i.e. that of spirituality and magical practices. The 2019 edition focuses on modern witches: the seers and the posessed, urban witches and village grandmothers, all searching for alternative forms of spirituality in times when the soul has ceased to be. The Third Eye is a thematic cycle that has been consistently showing women's films and women in film for several years.

"Women of the Energy" practice alternative forms of spirituality. The witches think differently; they are non-conformists and rebels. They draw on wisdom known only to themselves, on intuition and a special bond with nature, while questioning patriarchal religious dogmas and fighting for their reproductive rights. They are the great-grandmothers of the modern feminists. The cycle will open with Juniper Tree, a restored version of a film by Nietzchka Keen from 1990. This is the feminist version of the macabre Grimms' Fair Tales, sprinkled with spells, cannibalism, and hallucinations. Stuffed with a dense atmosphere, this black-and-white film with a mystical soundtrack and the magnetic Björk (in her acting debut) is a treatise on medieval magic, misogyny and feudal exploitation.

From medieval Iceland, we will move to Colombia, where Doris sees a dead cousin in her dreams and embarks on an otherworldly journey to re-perform funeral rites at the ghost's request. On her way, she encounters both the living and the dead. Lapü (dir. César Alejandro Jaimes, Juan Pablo Polanco) is a disturbing, sensual record of one of the strangest rituals of Colombian Indians.

Jeniffer Reeder can be called an anthropologist of First World magic. In her unconventional Knives and Skin, she melds a crime story with elements of magical realism, a punk rock musical and a feminist film noir. Reeder's world is saturated with magic and signs that await decryption; amulets, protective nicknames, and daily rituals are inseparable elements of the whole. Even clothes act as armor against evil powers, everyday activities take on ritual meaning, and words and gestures the form of spells.

VergilVernier (director of Orléans - 13th NH and Mercuriales - 15th NH) has created a truly alchemic film. Sophia Antipolis is the name of a futuristic utopia built in the 1970s on the French Riviera. As in the magic quadrant, stories of people seeking emotional and spiritual renewal intertwine, where New Age, technology and violence create the framework for modern witch-hunts, all underpinned not by superstition but calculated political action.

The oneiric Calypso directed by Rodrigo Lima and Lucas Parente (collaborators of Julio Bressane) is a loose film adaptation of the romance of Odysseus and the nymph Calypso. The main character Calypso is played by Luz Del Fuego, a legendary figure of Brazilian counterculture, a dancer and snake charmer, and magical rituals are accompanied by archival snapshots from the pioneering naturist colony off the coast of Rio.

Open your third eye!

Ewa Szabłowska, curator

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