Schamans of the Blind Country

Michael Oppitz
Germany, Nepal 1980 | 223 Min. | 16 mm, OmU

Oppitz’s film is a doc­u­men­tary epic about the shaman­ic prac­tices of a vil­lage in the north-west­ern Himalayas. In the shadow of the Dhaula­giri Massif live the North­ern Magar. Cut off from the world by loca­tion and lan­guage, these moun­tain dwellers devel­oped and main­tained a cul­tur­al tra­di­tion notable for its many pecu­liar­i­ties, among them their heal­ing prac­tices. The film attempts to cap­ture these prac­tices in all of their char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­tures: What do the night­ly séances look like? Upon what ide­o­log­i­cal beliefs are they ground­ed? How does one become a shaman and what are the terms there­of? How does an ini­ti­a­tion take place? How are the nec­es­sary ritual items pro­duced? Which cer­e­mo­ni­al dances and myth­i­cal songs does a shaman-to-be learn? The film con­nects these diverse ques­tions and topics togeth­er to offer view­ers a por­trait of a region­al soci­ety at a point in time before the stan­dard­ized, dig­i­tal age.

SHAMANS OF THE BLIND COUNTRY achieved cult status in many – espe­cial­ly art-inter­est­ed – cir­cles, was screened at famous film fes­ti­vals the world over, and has, in the time since its release, come to be known as one of the clas­sic ethno­graph­ic films of all time.