Hot Docs Canadian International
Documentary Festival (Apr 28 & May 5)
In entertainment, witches often get a bad reputation, and it is up to filmmakers like Rama Rau to present the correct facts. Her excellent documentary, simply titled Coven, presents a side of the craft which is not altogether strange. It’s mostly about community and reverence to the old ways before the coming of organised religion. But even then, those new ways of worship isn’t always a factor. What we see here is what it means to not only be an individual, but also become part of a commune.
That alone makes this cinematic study worthy of an award. One detail that’s understated is the rule of three. In this work, the lives of three women are examined. It’s not a reference to the Wayward Sisters from Shakespeare’s play and nor are they representative of the norns of lore. All they are women seeking to understand their past life, present state of affairs and future with this craft without prejudice.
Here, we meet Ayo Leilani, a.k.a. Witch Prophet. She’s a singer who lives in Toronto, and she is of East African descent. Her parents are devout Christians and as for why she turned to the occult, that’s because a person she met during her teens helped give her direction in a time she needed it. The result is not because of bad parenting; instead, it’s about finding focus in life. What her segment reveals is the stuff of an Anne Rice novel. And what her growing pains are is not necessarily limited to just her.
In another story, Laura Hokstad wants to discover her heritage and learn what it’s like to be with a coven. The tale here has connections with the Salem Witch Trial, and the historical significance is well worth exploring.
Last is Andra Maria Zlatescu who some may label a gypsy. Her family left Romania when she was young, and migrated up to the outskirts of Bucharest whereupon they met Mihaela Minca, Eastern Europe’s most powerful witch. The story here is perhaps the most fascinating. Any of these tales can easily become a horror story and thankfully they are not.
In the info given in the media release, “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.”
This work certainly explores all that and more! It considers why humanity is fearful of the occult, and what’s revealed suggests that at least for “mankind,” the fear of the unknown can lead them to cause more harm than be acts of kindness. Coven also shows the difference between a matriarchal society versus a patriarchal one, and that alone makes this film worth study. I find that with this work, everyone can learn how to respect these wiccans (if they can be called that) more. Not even The Eagles got it right when they wrote the song “Witchy Women.”
5 Stars out of 5
Coven Theatrical Trailer
Streaming online May 5-9 through Hot Docs in Canada.