Sumptuously hued, crisply lensed docu on mudangs–female shamans in Korea–proves remarkably entertaining, quite aside from its obvious ethnological interest. “Mudang: Reconciliation Between the Living and the Dead” follows a handful of women who rep two distinct modes of shamanism. Pic utilizes interviews and shows women presiding at ceremonies and funerals. It also sheds light on Korean narrative cinema, where funerals often take center stage (e.g, “To the Starry Island”). Though esoteric subject precludes theatrical play, fascinating docu would enliven any small-screen educational lineup.
Two elderly sisters embody the traditional shaman, well versed and trained in intricate rituals involving water, ropes and white ribbons symbolizing the role of intercessor between living and dead. But this form of shamanism is rapidly disappearing due to the lack of young disciples. A more dramatic, accessible type of communion with the dead is repped by shamans who are suddenly invaded by spirits without seeking or desiring such visitations. This intuitive, immediate connection makes for fascinating theater: A woman, possessed by the querulous spirit of her mother-in-law, is shown erupting with very personal recriminations in the middle of an astounded client’s funeral.