This film takes a behind-the-scenes look at an indigenous shaman living on a remote Siberian island as he moves between intimate shamanic rituals performed for local clientele and shows performed at various resorts for Western tourists in search of “primitive” cultures. The film captures cross-cultural miscommunication as the shaman and tourists misunderstand one another, usually comically, sometimes disturbingly, made all the more poignant by conflict between the dominant Russian Orthodox Church and the local shamanic tradition.
Meanwhile, a close look at the early Soviet archival footage of Siberian shamans raises questions about what remains hidden behind the cinematic image, exposing the gap between Western romantic fantasies and the actual plight suffered by contemporary indigenous peoples. Long suppressed by Christian missionaries and then by Soviet anti-religious campaigns, Siberian shamanism has experienced an unprecedented revival following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the number of shamans continues to rise. But who are these new shamans? Are they tricksters? Magicians? Witch-doctors? Or are they simply clever businessmen out to make a buck on a naïve and gullible tourist trade? The film explores this phenomenon in a region of Siberia seldom captured on film that has remained an outpost of shamanism in the Mongol world since the times of Genghis Khan. ->BACK