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Statement of the Director
As an energy healer, I am fascinated by how people of other cultures and traditions connect with their spirit. After many years of doing health care and a movie Gobi Women’s Song in other areas of Mongolia, I began to go to the northern part of the country, close to Siberia. Here is the land of shamans. I ached to share their world.
Making Ceremony was different from making another film. It required trips over many years to northern Mongolia, by car, train, horse, jeep, and reindeer through rivers and mud, over boulders and mountains. It required camping out in reindeer herders’ Siberian urts (tipi) or our own tents. No bathrooms or even outhouses. Getting to know the people and their lifestyle was the first requirement. More years were needed to get permission to see a ceremony and even more to film one.
Our equipment had to fit into a jeep and on horses with our food and camping gear, along with vitamins and hygiene kits for the herders. Since there was no electricity, we needed solar panels and batteries for power. With no internet access or phones at that time, we had to go in person to find someone for an interview. For instance, to ask permission to film the ceremony, our guide had to ride a motorcycle with a friend two hours out on the steppe to find the shaman and make the request. Then return to us so we could find a car to go back at the right time.
I resisted putting myself into the film and narrating it, trying to discover another way to present the story. Finally, when I saw that the story could not flow without this and people had no entryway into such an unusual topic, I agreed. Then the movie came together in its present form.
Living in the remote and pristine nature of northern Mongolia, Darhads and Dukha reindeer herding shamans introduce us to their calling, resistance, and teachings to become a shaman. We are invited to this Ceremony after the director spent over two decades learning about Mongolian culture, medicine, and shamanism. We witness the mysterious unseen world during a shaman’s trance. Shamans teach us the proper way for an apprentice to enter and leave the world of ancestors’ spirits, and how healing is done. Since life is changing rapidly in Mongolia, this documentary lets us step into traditional life that has been passed down from the ancestors—before it changes.
Shooting without electricity in an area only accessible by a four-day trip from the capital, Ulaanbaatar (three by car, one by horse) requires battery packs, solar panels, sturdy equipment packed in water proof cases, and a hardy team. Then filming itself is an exercise in balance: shamans need darkness for their ceremonies and filmmakers need light for their films.
Who would be interested?
Any audience with an interest in religion, psychology, Mongolia, Central Asia, anthropology, travel, culture, neuroscience or epilepsy will be transported by the images, sounds, and intimate access of this documentary.
“'Ceremony' is a major contribution to the academic and wider public understanding of shamanism.” Victor P. Ehly, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Union Institute & University