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Voodoo Mounted by the Gods

With intentions to be like a Jean Rouch film but results closer to "Mondo Cane," "Voodoo Mounted by the Gods" is an odd docu by lauded Swiss photojournalist Alberto Venzago and exec producer Wim Wenders that visualizes Venzago's trips since 1988 to the West African nation of Benin, voodoo's birthplace. Showing an undoubted interest in the ancient animist religion, docu at times also strangely turns that faith into spectacle for cinema tourists. With a 2001 copyright on credits and few international unspoolings before AFI Los Angeles fest, over-produced travelogue will hightail it to video in no time.

With:
With: Gounon, Mahounon, Jean-Luc Julien (voice), and Ron Williams and Douglas Williamson (narrators).

With intentions to be like a Jean Rouch film but results closer to “Mondo Cane,” “Voodoo Mounted by the Gods” is an odd docu by lauded Swiss photojournalist Alberto Venzago and exec producer Wim Wenders that visualizes Venzago’s trips since 1988 to the West African nation of Benin, voodoo’s birthplace. Showing an undoubted interest in the ancient animist religion, docu at times also strangely turns that faith into spectacle for cinema tourists. With a 2001 copyright on credits and few international unspoolings before AFI Los Angeles fest, over-produced travelogue will hightail it to video in no time.

Venzago’s mastery of the still camera translates into the lusciously beautiful images he shoots, but his account of high priest Mahounon’s 10-year search for a successor is always told at a distance, suggesting Venzago remained an outsider never able to penetrate the religion’s mysteries. Young Gounon is seen being ushered through the complex rites leading to his priesthood, but this is often upstaged by what eventually feel like exploiter elements, including animal sacrifice. Intrusive English-lingo narration adds to sense of a colonialist view of “dark people.”

Voodoo Mounted by the Gods

Benin - Germany - Switzerland

Production: A Wim Wenders presentation of a Traumwerk production. (International sales: Frenetic Films, Zurich.) Produced by Jurgen Biefang, Alberto Venzago. Executive producer, Wenders. Directed by Alberto Venzago. Screenplay, Kit Hopkins.

Crew: Camera (color, B&W), Venzago; editor, Jean-Claude Piroue; music, Jochen Schmidt-Hambrock, Boris Blank, Charlotte Hug, Peter Scherer; sound (Dolby Digital), Olaf Mierau; associate producers, Thilo Roscheisen, Martin Kircher. Reviewed at Arclight Theatre, Los Angeles, Oct. 19, 2004. (In AFI Los Angeles Festival.) English, French and Fon dialogue. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Gounon, Mahounon, Jean-Luc Julien (voice), and Ron Williams and Douglas Williamson (narrators).

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