Giuseppe Rositano is an expat documentary maker living on Jeju Island. His groundbreaking documentary “At Search for Spirits on the Island of Rocks, Wind and Women” is in the final production stages and he is crowdsourcing to raise the funds to ensure its release. He feels it is a project that is of value to us all.
“People should donate to promote a different type of mythology that is not one of the major mythologies. They are just as complicated and valuable as the Greek myths and they tell us a lot about the human condition. The Greek myths surely inform our lifestyles and I think it is valuable to be able to watch and hear someone telling the [Jeju] stories,” said Rositano.
Rositano has lived on Jeju for seven years and decided to make the film when his interest grew in a belief system that was “being played out right under everyone's noses.” That began a journey that has resulted in 600 hours of footage of storytelling and shamanistic practices across five Jeju villages.
“I am currently still editing, fact-checking and raising funds...We have over 600 hours of footage but...I’m not allowed to touch anything anymore. I went filming again yesterday, but I’m trying to stop that,” he said.
600 hours have been whittled down to two and another 30 minutes needs to be shaved off.
“It wasn’t so hard because each village has a story and a structure. The hard part is the two hours to an hour and a half, because you become attached to what you shot. That is harder than the rest,” said Rositano.
When the filming started Rositano was new to filmmaking and it has been an independent project all the way through. One of the toughest experiences was the reaction to the preview screening of his work.
Rositano at a Jeju shrine. Photo by Giuseppe Rositano
“The feedback was tough - it was a really hard audience because at first showing...were Jeju’s most famous shrine experts, so really intimidating.”
Rositano, however, took their advice on board and also consults regularly with established experts, such as Mun Moo-byeong.
“I go to his office to consult regularly - I was there today actually. He believes in a scholarly way of researching these stories and there is one version of the stories....others say that there are many versions and we should just accept that.”
Looking to document practices as he found them, Rositano went in without preconceptions of what he wanted to capture.
“This is an experiential film - whatever we find, we find. I am not saying I am an authority...My goal was to go there and find what I find, rather than frame it as a preconceived idea. We discovered a couple of things that weren’t in any of the anthropological books...and [one expert] wanted to know where I had found [them], so I think we are contributing somewhat,” said Rositano.
Expert Mun was quoted as saying he would have liked to have seen the documentary cover more of the religious practices in the world now. Rositano, however, feels the film is fundamentally modern.
“The [people] we talk to are still alive and they are in the modern world. I would say it is ultimately modern as it is what is there right now,” he said.
The reaction to the crowdsourcing has taken Rositano aback and he is well on course to achieve the $4000 target.
Attendees shalter from the rain at a "gut," or shamanic rite. Photo by Giuseppe Rositano
“We are already up to 60 percent and we’ve got a month left. It is unbelievable. We are near $2500 now. The funds go towards film festival fees and then towards subtitlers and renting a studio - all the post-production,” he said.
Once the production is complete, Rositano aims to enter global film festivals to release his film onto the world stage.
“I think we are gona try Toronto because it is a huge one - I am going to aim for the top. The thing with festivals is if you debut at one you can’t at another. The topic is obscure...but we’ll see,” he said.
Rositano said the journey he has been on since he began filming has made him think more about the human condition.
“It has made me think about religion differently - I am not a religious person, but when I see people praying so fervently to such a different type of deity it made me think that there is something within us that makes us religious. I knew this intellectually before, but now I have experienced it,” Rositano said.
If you would like to support Rositano’s project visit kickstarter.com and choose a donation level. Rositano promises you anything from “karmic thanks” for a $1 donation, to photos and a digital download of the film for $25. For donations of $1000 or more, in addition to being listed as an associate producer, Rositano will arrange for a personal session with a shaman which he will film and edit.
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