DER Documentary

Legacy of the Spirits

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by Karen Kramer
color, 52 min, 1985

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For centuries, the religion of Vodou (commonly called "voodoo" by outsiders) has been thought of as sticking pins in dolls or witchcraft. It has been kept underground and practiced in secret, giving way to much misunderstanding and sensationalism. This documentary - the first of its kind - shows how Vodou is a valid and serious belief system. The film interweaves exciting Vodou ceremonies, important scholarly information, compelling music, and images of colorful ritual objects, to show the beauty behind what has been one of the world's most misunderstood religions.

Legacy of the Spirits traces the religion from Africa to Haiti to New York City. It explains the theology of the religion, the meaning of the rituals, the pantheon of spirits, possession, the sacred drawings (called ve-ve), the Catholic influence, the history of persecution and more. This is all explained by priests and priestesses who practice Vodou and who give the film the quality of being both informative, yet personal.

Filmed entirely in the Caribbean communities in New York City, participants speak of what the religion means to them and their families, how the spirits have helped them, and why they continue to practice these ancient traditions today. Since the religion has always been kept underground (the reasons why are explained in the film), this is the first time the practitioners have spoken about it openly on camera.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Festival dei Popoli, Florence, Italy

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Haitian Song
To Serve The Gods

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