Forest of the Dancing Spirits
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Forest of the Dancing Spirits

An intimate look at the life of the Pygmy people of the Congo Basin.

DIRECTED BY LINDA VASTRIK (Canada Sweden, International Spectrum)
2 5stars


Wednesday, May 1, 8 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Friday, May 3, 4 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Saturday, May 4, 6 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Filmed between 2005 and 2012 in the Congo Basin tropical rainforest, this film is focused on the daily life and belief systems of the Aka people, a group of Pygmy hunter-gatherers.

The film paints a broad picture of life in the village, and explores myths around creation and reproduction, social roles within the tribe, the local division of labour, spirit possession, and ritual practices. Weaved throughout is the story of one couple’s struggle to start a family, the highlight of this 104-minute documentary.

While the film often veers into “armchair anthropologist” territory, Vastrik does let the people and the land tell the story. She keeps her voice, and herself (for the most part) out of the film. It’s obvious that the doc’s subjects are very aware of the camera’s presence, but those times when they let their guard down and real emotion shines through are gripping.

However, likely due in part to the length of time she spent in the village, Vastrik tries to cover too much, which results in the film being spread a bit thin. A few seemingly consequential issues are only briefly touched on, leaving the viewer hungry for more information.

See All Hot Docs 2013 Reviews