DER Documentary

Descending With Angels

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by Christian Suhr
color, 75 min, 2013
in Arabic, Danish, English
with English subtitles


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Islamic exorcism or psychotropic medication?

Descending with Angels explores two highly different solutions to the same problem: namely Danish Muslims who are possessed by invisible spirits, called jinn. A Palestinian refugee living in the city of Aarhus has been committed to psychiatric treatment after a severe case of jinn possession which caused him to destroy the interior of a mosque, crash several cars, and insult a number of people. He sees no point in psychotropic medication since his illness has already been treated with Quranic incantations. A psychiatrist and nurse try to understand his point of view but find that even further medication is needed.

In the meantime a local imam battles a stubborn jinn-spirit of Iraqi origin and tries to explain the Muslims of Aarhus that they should stop worrying so much about jinn, magic, and other mundane affairs since nothing can harm anyone except by the permission of God. The film compares two systems of treatment that despite vast differences both share a view of healing as operating through submission of faith to an external non-human agency — namely God or biomedicine.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Winner, Berlin Independent Film Festival, 2015
Special Student Film Award, Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, 2014
SIEF, Zagreb, 2015
Trento Film Festival, EURORAMA, 2015
International Festival of Ethnographic Film, Sofia, 2015
ETHNOCINECA, Vienna, 2015
Days of Ethnographic Film, Ljubljana, 2015
Ethnografilm, Paris, 2015
World Film Festival, Tartu, 2015
SVA Film and Media Festival (AAA, Washington, D.C.), 2014
American Academy of Religion (Special panel about the film, San Diego), 2014
Athens Ethnographic Film Festival, 2014
Munich International Ethnographic Film Festival, 2014
Sardinia International Ethnographic Film Festival, Italy, 2014
Beeld voor Beeld, Amsterdam, 2013
CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, 2013
NAFA Film Festival, Bilbao, 2013
RAI International Ethnographic Film Festival, Edinburgh, 2013

Related Resources
Press Kit (PDF)

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts