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Know Your Mushrooms (2008)

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Ron Mann investigates the miraculous, near-secret world of fungi. Visionaries Gary Lincoff and Larry Evans lead us on a hunt for the wild mushroom and the deeper cultural experiences ... See full summary »

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Larry Evans ...
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Gary Lincoff ...
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Ron Mann investigates the miraculous, near-secret world of fungi. Visionaries Gary Lincoff and Larry Evans lead us on a hunt for the wild mushroom and the deeper cultural experiences attached to the mysterious fungi. The oldest and largest living organisms recorded on Earth are both fungi. And their use by a new, maverick breed of scientists and thinkers has proven vital in the cleansing of sites despoiled by toxins and as a "clean" pesticide, among many other environmentally friendly applications. Combining material filmed at the Telluride Mushroom Fest with animation and archival footage, along with a neo-psychedelic soundtrack by The Flaming Lips, this film opens the doors to perception, taking the audience on an extraordinary trip. Written by Warsaw Film Festival

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April 2009 (USA)  »

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Grzybobranie  »

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(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

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(35 mm prints)

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1.85 : 1
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Uneasy mix
27 January 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Not such a bad film per se. But confused (see below).

As a nature lover especially fond of fungi, its down side stuck out in various ways. The problem can be summed up thus: this film looks at fungi solely through the lens of a fairly overt "mushroom hippie" sensibility. Especially as celebrated at this particular "alternative" mushroom festival event in Colorado each year (apparently).

I understand (and I'm glad) fungi have their countercultural appeal. It just seemed they were portrayed like a cult fetish and cause for party. I'm totally interested in mushrooms, and have no moral issues about the ones of such great interest in this film (you might catch my drift), or people's personal curiosity about that. But everything has its limit.

In this vein, the film didn't seem to know whether it was mainly about mushrooms, or about the people and groovy festival event. And whether it wanted to be a documentary, or a "message" or propaganda (not as nice a word) film like we see these days (Expelled, What the Bleep, etc etc) -- the cult fetish metaphor again.

"Know Your Mushrooms" (even the title ...) has a 2-word "take home" message display at the end of its final credit, and on the CD box too I see: "End mycophobia." There's a good focus for what I found wrong in this movie.

It sounds like they don't like mycophobia, but what's the beef? One might as well protest fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm. Indeed, mycophobia a time-honored folkloric pattern in English tradition, and not very widespread in other cultures. As such it's worthy of recognition and cultural conservation, I think. But in this film it comes under direct attack as if it were a villain or something bad. True, it is quaint and provincial but, c'mon.

What the film doesn't admit: there are many people in USA who haven't been accidentally poisoned -- for leaving wild mushrooms well enough alone, instead of fooling around with them. If you don't believe that, check into frequency of mushroom poisoning reports from countries in which gathering mushrooms for the meal is common practice. Some mushrooms can be devilishly difficult to identify. And you can get first-hand stories of mushroom poisoning at any amateur mushroom enthusiast club meeting.

So I don't know about what this film's visionaries are thinking. Where's their appreciation for our entire beloved literary tradition of mushrooms as icons of mystery and fear, symbols of decay and decomposition and everything rotten? "Fungi from Yuggoth" by HP Lovecraft, great stuff steeped in mycophobia and superbly so.

So, I was a little disconcerted by this movie's attempt to convince everyone how great fungi are, and get all excited about them. On impression, their secrets may deserve to be defended, just as their habitats need to be conserved. I'd rather this film help preserve our cultural, artistic and literary legacy -- including mycophobia!

But alas, rebellion against tradition for its own sake (maybe?) can be fun, I guess. At least this film likes mushrooms, that I can relate to.


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