Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
World Premiere: Apr 28 * 8:45pm * TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1
Witches, priestesses, Obeah… every society has its words for women with perceived supernatural power. The words can convey reverence, or hatred.
In Rama Rau’s Coven, three women who’ve come to identify as witches, seek to examine their past and present with similar goals. All three seek mentors and people like themselves, and travel in far-flung directions for answers.
Ayo Leilani, a.k.a. Witch Prophet, is a Toronto singer who was raised in East Africa by devoutly Christian parents and who began to explore the occult as a teen. Jamaicans she knew accused her of being an Obeah woman (a Caribbean sorceress), but their fear led her to a Jamaican guru who counseled her on her abilities and then disappeared.
Haunted by dreams in which she’s a 19th Century Russian author and mystic, she travels to New Orleans for advice from Queen Erzulie, founder of a Black Witches movement.
Laura Hokstad, a “solitary witch” in Toronto, seeks both the “coven” experience and an exploration of her heritage. She travels to Scotland to discover that two of her ancestors were women accused of witchcraft (one of them in notorious Salem, Mass.). She, it seems, is carrying on a family tradition.
And artist/witch Andra Maria Zlatescu, who left Romania as a child with her parents, travels to the outskirts of Bucharest to meet with Mihaela Minca, reputedly Eastern Europe’s most powerful witch, and her witch-clan family. There she is taken to a reputedly magical forest to commune with spirits and reconnect with the forces that empower her.
The experiences are as different as the people involved. Covens can be full of rules and demands, or as free as the spirits of the participants. But the lesson of women’s empowerment – and its exponential growth when they act together – connects their journeys.
Additional screening: May 5 * 6:00pm * TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 2