The Occult Experience (1985)
by Nevill Drury
“The Occult Experience: 95 minute documentary on the international occult scene, filmed in 1984-85 and screened initially by Channel 10, Sydney, in 1985. This digitised copy was made from a high quality VHS recorded directly from the original film print. It was filmed in Australia, England, Switzerland, Ireland and the United States. The director was Frank Heimans.
Nevill’s role was co-producer, researcher and interviewer. The Occult Experience won a Bronze Award at the 1985 International Film and Television Festival of New York and was released in the USA on Sony Home Video (second hand copies on Amazon). The documentary did not screen on television in either the UK or USA unfortunately, so uploading a really good copy will interest a lot of people in those countries especially. More info at NevillDrury.com“
If the ‘high quality’ movie above (hosted on Vimeo) does not load fast enough the copy below, available on Google Video, might be easier to load…
Click here to watch on “Full Screen” at Google Videos.
A documentary short on Oberon Zell Ravenheart and the Grey School of Wizardry.
Biography Channel’s “Witches” chronicles the evolution of witches over the past 700 years, from Bridget Bishop to the Blair Witch.
“They are mysterious people,” the narrator says in the opening sequence. “Revered by some, considered peculiar by others. Misunderstood by many. Long persecuted for their beliefs, tens of thousands have been tortured and executed. They are witches.”
The documentary demonstrates how witches’ status changed from the respected shamans of early European communities to the scourge of the Inquisition. It charts the progression of public sentiment in America — from the notion of witches as worthy of fear and murder in the Salem Witch Trials to the later image of a scary but somewhat silly figure put forward by Hollywood.
In between, the program mingles footage of the thoughts and lives of modern-day witches and their quest for public understanding of their lifestyles.
Such a trip through history wouldn’t be complete, of course, without a stop in Salem.
Filmmakers from Towers Productions, working for the Biography Channel, spent five days in Salem in February. They shot reenactments at Pioneer Village and other locations around the city to capture the early-American part of the narrative, and interviewed local historians as well as Salem witch Laurie Cabot.
“We made one visit and it was in February, so it was kind of quiet. But it was a great time to film, and we were able to get footage we couldn’t have otherwise,” said associate producer Jessie Rogowski, who worked on the program with producer/writer Ken Rowe.
Rogowski said Towers Productions has created numerous films for the Biography Channel, and pitched the idea of the witches theme to executives there.
“What we came up with was a good balance of telling the past and the modern-day,” she said.
The documentary aired, naturally, during the week of Halloween. It is expected to replay on the Biography Channel, part of the A&E Network, which also runs the History Channel.
The team shot Gordon College’s theater group performing “Cry Innocent” to illustrate the witch trials events. They had the student actors, along with child actors hired through Craisglist.com, participate in reenactments of colonial life in Salem Village and Salem Town. They interviewed Alison D’Amario of Salem Witch Museum and Richard Trask, a Danvers-based witch trials archivist, among others.
These images and interviews create the scenes of witches in early America.
The modern witches are depicted mainly through interviews with several Wiccans and witches, including Laurie Cabot and her disciple, Christopher Penczak. They each discuss a childhood predilection for magic, whether supported by their families or not.
And they each discuss the battle for public awareness — combating stereotypes of a creepy, green-faced witch and working to make people understand and be tolerant of their lifestyles.
As the segment on Cabot begins, the narrator says, “she is perhaps the most famous witch in the country,” noting that former Gov. Michael Dukakis recognized her as the state’s “official witch” in the 1970s — something that came back to haunt him during his presidential campaign.
The stigma on witches and Wiccans, and the belief that it is not a religion, runs that deep, Cabot says. “[Dukakis] regretted every moment of even mentioning the word witch,” she says in the interview, with a laugh.
The film includes scenes of Cabot and her coven engaged in rituals at the Lyceum, where they held a ceremony in honor of the pagan holiday Imbolc.
It also talks about the fight to include pagan and Wiccan symbols on soldiers’ graves who observe those faiths — a battle that involved some Salem witches and activists, including Jerrie Hildebrand.
Cabot told the Gazette she hasn’t seen the documentary yet, but she enjoyed the serious approach taken by the producers. They spent three days filming her, she said, and they didn’t try to sensationalize her practices and rituals.
“Other people have watched it and they thought it was really good,” she said this week. “It was a great experience, because the crew and the producers were very gracious and unlike Hollywood.”