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"MANA-beyond belief"


Written and directed by Peter Friedman and Roger Manley


All over the world, in every society, there are objects that have special power over people. People climb mountains or make pilgrimages just to see or touch them. They prostrate themselves or engage in rituals in their presence, caress them in the hopes of absorbing some of their magic, they enshrine them in temples or pass them on to descendants; wear them or store them in treasure houses or sometimes burn them. An individual object might hold power over only one group or even just one person, but the phenomenon of "power objects" is universal.


The central idea behind the new motion picture "MANA-beyond belief" is that the way people behave in the presence of these power objects reveals a process of the human mind which is fundamental and universal: belief. By filming power objects around the world-things that are precious because people believe they are-and revealing the myriad activities and behaviors that take place around them, this new feature film presents an exciting new way of looking at what is happening all around us, all the time. Belief is not just religion; it drives the stock market, it determines how we deal with history and our personal memories, it underlies racism and war. Bringing together diverse cultures, characters, visual styles, music and fascinating objects, MANA helps us see the essential, invisible element underlying them all.


Mana is the Polynesian word for the power that resides in things. Appropriately, a Maori priest filmed in a New Zealand rainforest sets the stage for an odyssey which takes us from the Arizona deserts through Asia, Africa and Europe and finally to a real-life time machine-with stops along the way at nuclear reactors, art museums, Burmese temples, Elvisland, relic smugglers, voodoo ceremonies and the halls of Congress. Shot in crisp, state-of-the-art High Definition video transferred to 35mm, "MANA-beyond belief" is an adventure, both across the globe and into the human mind.


MANA -- beyond belief is a production of Strange Attractions/New York and ADR Productions/Paris, in co-production partnership with Egoli Tossell Film AG/Berlin; Koppfilm/Berlin; Scarabee Films/Holland; Making Movie Oy/Finland; with support from The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, The Lubo Fund, and these broadcasters: ARTE-France, NPS-Holland, YLE2-Finland, SVT-Sweden, and SBS-Australia. Additional support has been provided by the Centre National de la Cinématographie (France), Procirep (France), The Dutch Film Fund (Holland), The Rotterdam Film Fund (Holland), Filmboard Berlin Brandenburg (Germany), Mitteldeutsche Medienfoerderung (Germany), AVEK (Finland), and individual donors.


Who on earth would make such a film?


Producer/Director Peter Friedman has won many of the top awards for documentary film in the USA and Europe, and has served on the competion juries of major European Festivals including FIPA (Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels) in Biarritz, France, the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, and the Visions du Réel Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland. Friedman's films, which have been broadcast and screened in dozens of countries worldwide, include Wizard of the Strings (Academy Award® nominee), I Talk to Animals (screened on the Southern Circuit Tour sponsored by the South Carolina Arts Commission), Silverlake Life (Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, Peabody Award, Prix Italia in Rome for Best Documentary of the Year Worldwide, Death by Design (Prix Europa in Berlin for Non-Fiction TV Program of the Year funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ZDF/Germany), The Life and Times of Life and Times (4-month run at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in New York City, and numerous international broadcasts including BBC, ARTE France, NHK Japan), There are No Direct Flights from New York to Marseille (Walter Reade Theatre, NYC, Independents Night series supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Independent Feature Project, Co-produced by Channel 4 London) and The Big Picture (ARTE-France).


Producer/Director Roger Manley's books and exhibitions have earned him international recognition in the fields of outsider art, anthropology and photography. His curatorial work with self-taught artists and documentation of the folklife of indigenous peoples have won both the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Grant and the National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholars Grant, as well as resident artist fellowships from the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts, the La Napoule Art Foundation, and the State of Israel. His screenplays include several in the ITV series "From the Brothers Grimm," which aired nationwide on PBS, and have won awards including the Andrew Carnegie Medal (1998, 1991), a C.I.N.E. Golden Eagle, and Best Feature Screenplay (Washington Film Festival). His books include The End is Near! (1998), Self-Made Worlds (1997), The Tree of Life (1996), Dear Mr. Ripley: Wonders of the Age from Ripley's Believe It Or Not! (1993), and Signs and Wonders (1989).