As man's imprint upon the Earth continues to grow, we've become more and more alienated from the wonders of the natural world. Yet Mother Nature possesses the ability to enhance our lives, cure our ills, and imbue our existence with a sense of balance and meaning. That's the main theme set forth by Manna, an impassioned documentary inspired by the psilocybin mushroom and its arsenal of consciousness-expanding powers.
Rich in psychedelic compounds, psilocybin mushrooms have inspired much fascination throughout history. Mayan artifacts reveal early evidence of their allure, they've been used in a variety of shaman rituals, and a flurry of prominent scientists, artists and cultural researchers have also come to their defense over the years.
The film describes its altering effects in vivid detail. After an initial period of disorientation, the user feels as though they have entered a new dimension. Once there, they can fully experience the energy of their natural environment, and recognize the complexities of its design.
Tales of the mushroom only serve as the film's jumping off point, however. Its true objective lies in highlighting the importance of achieving harmony with nature. By taking a step back and studying the inner workings of a functioning ecosystem, where every element serves its purpose by supporting another, perhaps humankind itself can learn to co-exist in greater harmony. The film travels around the globe - from the clear blue waters of the Philippines to the awe-inspiring rainforests of Australia - to illustrate these lessons.
The call to reinvest in the glories of nature has never been more urgent, especially in this world of ever-increasing infrastructure, environmentally unsound practices, and catastrophic levels of pollution. The continued dominance of "civilization" makes it more challenging for us to establish these crucial connections, just as society's fears oppress the self-discovery that may be possible with psilocybin mushrooms. Do the feats of modern industry truly represent progress, or are they only working to remove us from our full potential?
Shot in 2003 on a Hi-8 camera, the visual qualities of the film may be modest, but its thematic content is ambitious and noble. Provocative and inspiring, Manna shares a potent ecological message.