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Scientifically speaking, “mycelium” is the vegetative part of a fungus.
But according to Fantastic Fungi, a new film by director Louie Schwartzberg that debuts at the Sie FilmCenter in Denver today (and at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder next week), mycelium is also an “underground network that can heal and save our planet.”
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The documentary, billed as a “consciousness-shifting film,” explores the relationship between human beings and the fungi kingdom through interviews with experts, including esteemed food author and Western Slope resident Eugenia Bone, who lives part-time in both Crawford and New York City. Bone lends her culinary expertise in the role of “mycophagist” (someone who eats fungi); she’s also the author of Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms (among other books).
The film delves into the connective nature of mycelium, describing fungi’s role as food, exploring new research on the use of psychedelic mushrooms as therapeutic drugs, and even discussing the “stoned ape” hypothesis, which links mushrooms to the evolution of human consciousness.
But its ultimate aim, says Bone, is to inspire. It’s “really a poetry-in-motion kind of film,” she says.
So what, exactly, can viewers expect? For starters, some seriously cool footage. With mesmerizing imagery—including time-lapse sequences of fungi growing—and the soft voice of actress Brie Larson narrating, “the whole thing just bathes you in this sort of mysterious vibe,” says Bone.
Other notables that appear on-screen include mycologist Paul Stamets, ecologist Suzanne Simard, and best-selling authors Michael Pollen and Andrew Weil.
Schwartzberg’s ultimate message, Bone surmises, is that everything is plural—in both nature and life. “There is no singular organism; everything is connected,” she says. “And he wants to portray that because ultimately that leads to greater responsibility toward each other and the other critters we share the planet with.”
Science, food, medicine, and theoretics aside, the main reason folks should go see the film, says Bone, is because it’s “just beautiful.”
If you go: Fantastic Fungi plays at the Sie FilmCenter in Denver (2510 E. Colfax Ave) September 20–26; show times vary. Schwartzberg will participate in discussions after select screenings on Sept. 20 and 21. Tickets cost $6 to $12.
The film also plays at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder (2590 Walnut St.) September 25–28; show times vary. Schwartzberg (and others) will participate in a virtual Q&A session after the Sept. 25 screening. Tickets cost $6.50 to $12.