A Movie by Pam Kray
DVD includes Full movie plus 30 Minutes of Extras
To purchase the Movie CLICK HERE
©2002 TRT: 55 minutes
©2012 Mushroom Seekers DVD w/30 minutes of new extras
Mushroom Seekers is a first-person exploration of the world of wild mushrooms and the
people who look for them. When American filmmaker, Pam Kray, noticed people
carrying baskets of wild mushrooms in the subways of Prague in 1993, she began to
examine her own lack of familiarity with mushrooms in her surroundings. The ensuing
journey of filmmaker into mushroom cultures took her from the Czech Republic through
the U.S. to Mexico, from national pastime to arcane hobby to sacred undertaking. The
dvd release includes extras from movie outtakes of herbalist Susun Weed and film artist
Bradley Eros, and from interviews shot in 2011 with world class mycologist and author,
Gary Lincoff, and with Paul Sadowski, of the New York Mycological Society.
To Purchase the Movie online, CLICK HERE
Pam Kray's Notes about the Mushroom Seekers
Mushroom Seekers is roughly an hour long, shot in an early digital video format. It
unfolds as partly a diary and partly a collage of time and space and memory. Interwoven
with our search for our various roots and with my perception of American self-
consciousness in the world, Mushroom Seekers investigates the intermingled histories of
the eastern and western hemispheres. Through footage gathered in the Czech Republic,
the United States and Mexico, the work explores the roles of nature and environment
according to both native (indigenous) and non-native (immigrant) cultures.
In the Czech Republic, mushroom picking is a family-based activity; the knowledge of
the mushrooms as well as the ritual of hunting, picking, cleaning and scraping the stems
is performed based, usually, on a family elder's demonstration. It is not studied in school.
In the United States, mushroom picking remains a relatively out-of-the-ordinary pursuit
that comes with a list of warnings (some well founded and some ridiculous). It is
considered dangerous, and the anecdotes as well as the statistics of poisonings are
reported. In addition, home remedies are generally suspect and the tradition of picking
one's food in neighboring forests has been largely uncommon.
From an American point of view, mushroom picking is an activity removed from the
experience of most people. The United States offers clubs and experts that help not only
the American mushroom neophyte, but also the immigrants and visitors from mushroom-
loving cultures to pick with relative confidence that what looks like a mushroom in their
homeland is or is not that mushroom. If Czech mushroom pickers compete in terms of
picking the biggest or cooking the tastiest dish, the U.S. is only recently gaining ground
in that area and also gleans the knowledge from “everywhere.” Mexico's history of
immigration and assimilation differs from that of the United States, making mushroom
picking and the use of herbs and more home-based traditional medicine a much different
All together, the three parts of the movie investigate an unspoken element: transmission
of knowledge, informal education of generations and how movement affects the very
fiber of knowledge in new contexts. Basically, you can't teach what you don't know. And
when the native people have been silenced as well, the gap that is revealed in the
language or in the transmission of knowledge cannot be filled. What once could have
been taught by example, practically without words, cannot be passed on now because one
can only describe the lack of words or the loss of knowledge itself.
I shot the Czech portion of the video during the fall of 1998. I also interviewed the
American herbalist (green witch, author), Susun Weed. She is not what I would delineate
an “expert” claiming to know everything about edible mushrooms; rather, Weed is a
leader in disseminating information about wild plants and their relationship to health and
the traditional shamanic place of women in societies. Her works and words are very
pertinent to my themes.
In 1999, I traveled in Mexico to Huautla, Qaxaca: the home of Maria Sabina who was
one of the most famous Mazatec shamans (at least to westerners) . The Mazatecs have
used psilocybin mushrooms for a long time. Although I was not allowed to take pictures
during the mushroom ceremony, I was affected by the intensity of the experience and
by the joy and sacredness of the “hongitos”* for the Mazatec people. In Mexico City, I
did shoot footage at the Museo de la Medicina Mexicana, which celebrates the history
of indigenous practices and practitioners alongside the modern western medicine.
Themes in the museum seemed to support my premise that the European invasion of
Mexico left a very different cultural legacy than that in the United States.
In 2000, I attended the Telluride Mushroom Festival at Telluride, Colorado. Here I found
experts and enthusiasts of both the United States and international sphere of mycologists,
biologists, doctors, chemists and amateur pickers. Besides learning about wild
mushrooms, I heard the terms mycophilia and mycophobia reiterated over and over again.
More than 10 years and many mushroom hunts later, I reissued Mushroom Seekers on
dvd with 30 minutes of extras, including some thoughts about cultural attitudes in
relationship to mushrooms (and other natural agents in our environment) by renowned
mycologist, Gary Lincoff; herbalist, Susun Weed; and artist, Bradley Eros.
* Hongos is a Spanish word for mushrooms. The Mazatec people use the diminutive,
hongitos, for the psilocybe mushrooms they use in prayer.
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