25 November 2010 | Mozjoukine
Philippino psychic surgeon treats Australian medical pilgrims.
Before investment rules gave government sources a monopoly on film funding, it was still possible to get private money into bank rolling Australian film and this account of Philippines "Psychic surgeon" Alex Orbito plunging his hand into the bodies of tour group Australians and retrieving diseased tissue, got added to the eighties psychic phenomena documentaries.
The crew arrived to find the Reverend Alex Orbito had decided to back out of the arrangement and the director had to trudge down the hotel corridor to convince someone, who was reported to be able to read minds. For whatever reason, the healer did collaborate and shooting shows both the "operations" and the life of the city as experienced by the visitors.
In Manilla during the wet season, at the time of the Philippines' first election, most of the Australians were outside their country for the first time in their lives and they were being led in prayers by a third world healer with a voodoo symbol round his neck, while Marcos troops patrolled the streets and the mall milk bar served ice cream flavoured Pango Pango Mango and Manilla Vanilla.
Back at their Western Australian base, a variety of experts and participants are shown discussing the experiences of the group but the inevitable question of faking is not the focus - if what was was filmed was slight of hand, who is to say our man didn't actually do his act the day after they left or maybe one of the healers down the road was really performing.
What I AM NO GOD concentrated on, as more interesting and more easy to observe, was the way the experience effects the party, the "pilgrims" at least one of which had been given a diagnosis by her family doctor, which was a sentence of death - and also the film crew. What makes these people with conventional Western upbringings jet off to an exotic location with their serious health problems?
With no respectable medical researcher willing to bother with the activity, this feature length study, shot over a month, must be considered the most ambitious account of the then celebrated healers.
The film was quite well received and the makers asked the Australian Film Commission, who had declined to finance it's production, whether they could count on the support the organisation's in-house talents got with distribution (prints and promotion, trips to festivals etc). Back came the answer that if they really liked it they'd put one of the existing copies in a box they were freighting to Europe. Send 'em the print to look at. It was pointed out that (unlike the ones Commission had spent the tax payers' money on)the film was in theatrical release and they were sent a double pass - which was never used. End of that story.
After that level of support for non fiction, the next thing the producers did was a zombie feature film.