A film about a mushroom hunt, the Vietnam War, histories that collide and adventures that ensue amid the stunning Oregon wilderness.
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ABOUT THIS PROJECT:
Roots and Webs is about a hunt that commences each fall. Hundreds of Cambodian and Laotian refugees, American Vietnam Veterans and other off-the-grid pioneers, descend on the Southeast Oregon woods in search of the elusive and lucrative matsutake mushroom -- a rare fungus prized in Japanese cuisine. Amid the make-shift Mushroom Camps, histories collide, adventures ensue, and unforeseen connections are discovered spanning decades, wars and continents. Read below for more on the story.
We love this film: the wild and calamitous mushroom camp world, the thrill of the hunt, the cultural and political history, the breathtaking landscape. It's the stuff of adventure and powerful documentary storytelling, but we won't be able to make it a reality without your help!
WHAT WE NEED TO MAKE IT HAPPEN: We would like to begin shooting on September 3rd in the Cascades region of Southeast Oregon. We are asking for $13,600 to match a generous grant given to us by the Catapult Film Fund in order to meet our bare-bones shooting budget. Your generous gift will allow us to: secure the camera package we need; pay for a skilled Director of Photography; and, and rent a safe all-terrain production vehicle for challenging mountainous roads. It will allow us to support our crew in the way we need, and to carry out the high-quality execution required to bring our hunters' world to life on-screen. As a supporter, you won't just have helped us shoot a documentary and realize our vision -- you will have helped bring an as-yet untold story to life.
HERE'S THE STORY: Roots and Webs tells the story an unlikely group of heroes: a community of mushroom hunters who converge in the Southern Oregon woods each September to live in the frontier world of the Mushroom Camps. Some come to the woods lured in by the myth of striking it rich—they hope to find enough “white gold” to leave their year round jobs behind to instead lead a peaceful existence in the woods. Others come for the love of the hunt: they just hope to make enough money in the mushroom game to afford gas for the trip back home. Others believe the mushroom can cure cancer and are there to heal a loved one; and for some, hunting is their refuge. The forest is a sanctuary where our characters’ violent pasts (such as surviving the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam War) can temporarily slip away.
follow our hunters in-depth over the course of one hunting season.
They have sixty days to find as many matsutakes as possible before the
Forest Service closes the Camps down and the severe winter snows ensue.
But, finding matsutake is challenging as it grows submerged deep beneath
the soil. Hunters must deduce a complex system of roots and webs,
reading the landscape and braving the elements, to find their treasure
buried underground. In the past, gun-totting gangs have been known to roam through the forest,
controlling hunting territory. People have
been shot, and rumors of rapes keep female hunters afraid.
As our subjects’ hunts drive forward, we fall back into their pasts discovering surprising interconnections dating back to the Vietnam War. Each of our protagonists fought in Vietnam, whether on the Cambodian, Thai or Laotian front, and have experienced unspeakable violence in the jungles. After resettling in the US through refugee programs, or returning home to Oregon, they have re-met here in the woods. While in the camps, two of our hunters recognized each other from a joint American-Cambodian operation they carried out over forty years ago. A handful of others, while sharing war stories in the Mushroom Camps, realized they shot at each other from opposing sides: they were there, together on a battlefield in Laos, on the very same day. Now, they form new relationships amid the fog-bound woods--still haunted by their pasts, but finding unexpected community through the mushroom hunt.
Mushrooms thrive on death; they churn decay into the stuff of life, fertilizing the soils for renewed growth. Without being heavy-handed, we reference this metaphor: despite our mushroom hunters violent pasts, they find a new life in the woods. And, like the extensive roots of mushrooms that connect up the diverse ecology of the forest, our hunters are linked through global political and economic webs. Roots and Webs therefore weaves a story of regeneration and interconnection from an arcane woodland realm.
WHO WE ARE: Sara Dosa, Director: I'm a filmmaker, journalist and mushroom hunter from San Francisco, CA with nearly seven years working in independent film as a producer, editor and writer; and writing for various film publications. I currently coordinate the grants and residencies program at the San Francisco Film Society providing hands-on consultation and support to over 200 filmmakers nationwide. I started off working with internationally acclaimed filmmaking team, Actual Films on projects such as The Rape of Europa, Wonders Are Many, as well as a slew of Nat Geo series (Last Christians of Bethlehem; Undercover Hoover). I graduated from Wesleyan University in Anthropology; and hold a joint masters in Anthropology and International Development Economics from the London School of Economics. While in grad school three years ago, I heard a captivating lecture by Professor Anna Tsing about this multicultural community of mushroom hunters who gather each fall to pick matsutake. Instantly, I fell in love. Inspired by Professor Tsing's work, I knew I wanted to make this film.
Josh Penn, Producer: Josh Penn is a New Orleans based film producer. He is currently in post on his first feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild with Court 13 with whom he also produced Glory at Sea which won 15 film festival awards. In 2009, Josh was one of six producers selected to take part in Sundance’s Creative Producing Initiative and in 2011 was selected to take part in the Cannes Producers Workshop. In addition to films, he has also produced a number of music videos including MGMT’s Time to Pretend and Electric Feel. He has worked both in and out of film in a number of capacities including working making campaign videos for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, Station Manager of a Public Radio Station and as The Michigan New Media Director for Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.
Alana Pryor Ackerman, Associate Producer: Currently based in New Orleans, Alana possesses a wealth of experience in film, from feature narratives, to music videos to documentaries alike. She has held posts with organizations as diverse as The Smithsonian to Court 13, on projects such as BEASTS OF A SOUTHERN WILD and Margaret Brown's THE GREAT INVISIBLE. Formerly an Olympic Track Badminton player, an aspiring mandolinist, and expert at playing instruments shaped like animals (in particular, a gourd shaped one called The Pig), Alana brings an array of talents and creativity to the team!
Amanda Larson, Editor: Amanda Larson is an Oakland-based video editor. Prior to moving to the Bay Area, she worked for Byrd Productions in Seattle, WA, most recently editing March Point, which aired on PBS's Independent Lens in late 2008. She also edited on Sweet Crude (2009), as well as a variety of other short documentaries, corporate videos, and multimedia performance pieces. She recently completed her first narrative feature, The Diary of Preston Plummer, which is expected to make its festival run in Summer 2011. In addition to spending over five years working and teaching with 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle, WA, she has also taught Final Cut Pro, Avid Express Pro and stop-motion animation at Pacific Northwest arts centers such as: Native Lens, Longhouse Media, Coyote Central, Northwest Film Forum, and the Seattle Center Academy.
Bay Area folks: Want to learn more about mushrooms? Visit the Mycological Society of San Francisco http://www.mssf.org/