Set against the rich, color-soaked backdrop of America’s rural landscapes, Alex Mar’s lyrical documentary braids together the stories of three young Americans who have chosen to sacrifice comforts in order to embrace the fringes of alternative religion. The subjects include Chuck, a Lakota Sioux sundancer in the badlands of South Dakota; Morpheus, a Pagan priestess living off the grid in northern California’s old mining country; and Kublai, a Spiritualist medium in the former revivalist district of upstate New York. In the radical, separatist spirit of early America, each has extracted himself from the mainstream in order to live immersed in his faith and seize a different way of life. Mar takes a personal, visually lush approach, enveloping the viewer in the subjects’ experience of their controversial faiths through their own words, their rituals, and the sprawling, majestic imagery that makes up each of their worlds.
The movie was directed by Alex Mar, produced by Mar and Nicholas Shumaker, and edited by Andy Grieve (Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure, Alex Gibney’s Going Clear). It features cinematography by Gregory Mitnick and a score by composer Nathan Larson (formerly of the band Shudder to Think).
American Mystic originally premiered in competition at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, and is currently available on DVD and streaming on Kino Now. The film’s Pagan storyline went on to inspire the director’s first book, Witches of America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).