Project Synopsis

Overview:  Our film will follow the stories of some of the world’s last great shamans in Russia, Bali, Peru and China.  Locations include some of the last remaining ecologically pure places on Earth: the Altai region of Russia, Yunnan province in China, and the Amazon jungles of Peru.  These are some of the planet’s most bio-diverse nature preserves where these shamans live as they always have, connected with the natural world and unaffected by contemporary civilization.  But their existence is under siege. These remaining shamanistic cultures are increasingly being intruded upon by economic interests seeking to exploit their natural resources, and other effects of modern culture and tourism.

Isolated from mass media until only recently, shamans are now willing to share their knowledge with a larger audience.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.  This will be a first-person account of these shamans, their beliefs and their lives.

Our research shows that shamans today believe that the world is in great danger and they want to awaken us all to the urgent need for change.  But their message is not doom and gloom but one of hope.  What many see as a threat they see as a great opportunity to advance human consciousness.  Shamans won’t just point out the problems today’s world is facing, but will also explore the solutions these wise men and woman offer us for the Earth and mankind’s future.

Shamans is also a film filled with granular details about their daily lives: the people they help, their songs and dances, their essential tools: herbs, incense, ancient books, musical instruments, healing drawings - earth, water, fire and spirit.

We will explore questions about how one becomes a shaman and how shamans see themselves in today’s society.  We’ll examine the traditions they hope to preserve and carry forward, and how they transmit their knowledge to future generations. And we will ask about their perception of the profound changes they are witnessing in today’s environment and the human condition. Finally, we will ask the shamans universal questions, such as “What does it mean to be in harmony?  Why do people get sick and how can we stay healthy?  And what is happiness?”

Our journey begins in Russia with the story of Igor Kalinauskas, a shaman who once had to face a Hobson’s choice: to be put in a psychiatric hospital or participate in “scientific experiments.  Now, twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Igor is a well-known writer and “guru” of his generation.  He continues his healing practices and has many pupils and disciples.  He takes us to Altai, where few of Russia’s remaining shamans live.  From there we travel to Indonesia, where the recent fame of a local shaman, Ketut Liyer, has made him the center of attention for droves of Western tourists each day.  From there we proceed to China where the last of the Dongba shamans (“dongba” means “knowledgeable”) live, and then finally on to Peru, where massive deforestation is threatening the lives and cultural heritage of the last of the shamans of this country.

In each instance we will address environmental challenges and political conflicts the shamans and their people face (deforestation in Peru, water issues in Bali, air pollution in China, oil drilling in Altai), and a long history of persecution and oppression and even violence against them and their beliefs: e.g. during the Soviet era of repression in Russia and during the Cultural Revolution in China.

Shamans is an emotionally powerful story about what we are losing and how we are losing it.  The incredible personal wisdom of the healers is a dying voice in our world of shifting baselines about nature and its gifts and limitations. Losing them could mean losing our connection to ourselves and to the very soul of our humanity.

This is a film about nature’s primal forces and being in harmony with them.  It’s a story about the interaction between nature and these shaman stewards, in some of the last untamed, breathtakingly beautiful places on our planet. Our goal is to offer our audience an experience that transports them on a journey of self-discovery and increased awareness. Our hope is for them to leave the theater seeing the world through new eyes and feeling deeply moved by a new understanding about our relationship with the natural world and the environment.  

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