During a time of social distancing and self-isolation, Louie Schwartzberg wants to inspire global connection. And he’s doing that through an unexpected subject matter: mushrooms. 

On Thursday, March 26, the award-winning director is releasing his film, Fantastic Fungi, for online rental and purchase. He’s also live-streaming three free Q&A sessions that day, which are open to anyone around the world. The virtual event is called Fantastic Fungi Day

“We figured, let’s just bring everybody in to share the experience, to feel connected, to be able to get into nature’s intelligence, and get the comfort that we need at this moment in time,” explains Schwartzberg. 

The film Fantastic Fungi, which played in Denver and Boulder theaters last fall (and has been screened in other theaters around the world), explores the relationship between human beings and the fungi kingdom through interviews with experts, including food author and Western Slope resident Eugenia Bone, as well ecologist Suzanne Simard and best-selling authors Michael Pollen and Andrew Weil. It’s “really a poetry-in-motion kind of film,” Bone, who splits her time between Crawford and New York City, previously told 5280

During the 81-minute film, which is narrated by actress Brie Larson, viewers will learn about mycelium, the organism that produces mushrooms and forms an underground network that allows plants and trees to communicate with each other. “Basically it’s a shared economy under the ground where nutrients are shared, where ecosystems flourish without greed,” explains Schwartzberg. “The network is used to protect and nurture each other. And that’s a beautiful model for what is happening right now.” 

For those that choose to rent or buy the film, “you’re going to see things that you can’t see with the naked eye,” says Schwartzberg. “It makes the invisible visible.” He describes time-lapse clips of mushrooms, visuals of plant-to-tree communication, and insight into how a mother tree cares for its baby. “It’s nature at its best,” he adds. “Being able to see things in time-lapse and macro is a visual feast for the eyes, and we need that more than ever to reduce stress and anxiety and give us comfort and hope.” 

The film also discusses how to be more sustainable and resilient, adds Schwartzberg, who surmises that will be “the lesson and takeaway when all of this [the COVID-19 pandemic] subsides.” 

The live stream Q&As, which will be moderated by executive producer Stephen Apkon and feature Schwartzberg, mycologist Paul Stamets, and Bone (among other notables from the film), will discuss the what’s currently going on in the world “through the lens of nature and biology—not the lense of media, politics, and fear,” says Schwartzberg. The conversations will be interactive (“We will be accepting questions from people all over the world,” says Schwartzberg) and there will also be a chat room. 

As of last week, people from 40 countries had signed up for the Q&A sessions, says Schwartzberg. “It will be great to hear how everybody’s reacting to this global crisis and to be able to feel connection when we are being asked to social distance from each other.” 

To participate: Free, interactive Q&A discussions will be live streamed on Thursday, March 26, at 2 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m. MT. Register in advance here. The film, Fantastic Fungi, will be available for rental ($4.99) and purchase ($14.99) starting Wednesday, March 25 at 10 p.m. MT. Pre-order options are available here