About Last Night: Fantastic Fungi Review
Fantastic Fungi aims to be a more mainstream documentary that educates people about how fantastic fungi are, and how they can help us.
I don’t know what you were doing last night, but I was definitely watching Fantastic Fungi. And I don’t even watch television. I barely know how to turn it on, more or less operating at a mid-nineties understanding of remote controls, so it took me a moment to figure out the multiple screen and remote situation. But, I did it, just in the nick of time, so I could press play at the same time with my friends, on zoom. Total nerds. I even lit candles for the occasion, notably the “Anti-Asshole” candle. It’s French. I love a nature documentary; the more grandeur, the better. A nature documentary in these quarantine times was exactly what I needed for a little spiritual lift. Yes, please, show me how mindboggling this living thing that we’re a part of is. Get me a narrator. Let’s do this. I want to be amazed. Everything I needed to know about relationships I learned on the Discovery Channel. That’s what I always say. I might forget those lessons, but wisdom and wonder are written all over the planet. It refreshes the palette, if you will, to remember that.
The world is so divinely intelligent, one could even call it conscious. And, we’re treating it so poorly. As a nature series lover, I was particularly excited to watch Fantastic Fungi, not only because award-winning time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg directed it, but also, I couldn’t believe that fungi had not gotten their due diligence on a bigger screen yet. Fungi may have amassed quite a devoted fan club over the years, but they’ve still remained mostly underground both literally and figuratively.
They are one of the most fascinating, unique kingdoms in the canon, somewhere between a plant and an animal.
The largest living organism is a fungus and it covers 2,385 acres. Watching the variety of fungi come to life in all their shapes, sizes, and colors? Sign me up. The way Schwartzberg showed the complexity of their communication systems below ground was particularly effective and impressive. If anything, fungi are both of those things. Mycologist Paul Stamets, who stars in the film, gets his deserved recognition for his life’s work. “His central premise is that habitats have immune systems, just like people, and mushrooms are cellular bridges between the two.” The immune system is a theme right now.
The planet has been getting increasingly sicker, and the time to respond was yesterday. That’s also a theme, at least for some of us.
The Earth is losing animal life alone at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate. It’s not just Antarctica that’s disappearing.
There are moments in life to say, “Better safe than sorry,” and climate change is one of them. We’ve only begun to crack the surface of what fungi have the potential to do as medicine, and for our environment. Beyond the fact that some types of fungi have contributed to our cognitive evolution, there are fungi that eat plastic and radiation. Paul Stamets says that there were two cataclysmic events that occurred in the history of the Earth that almost destroyed it.
The life that teamed up with the fungi survived. After keeping a close tab on the fungi this year, I think it’s time to team up with the fungi. We’re socially distanced in order to understand just how connected we actually are to each other, but also, the Earth and appreciate that. It’s hilarious that we’ve been talking about technology being the thing disconnecting us from each other even though we’re using it to connect. It’s also funny that Paul Stamets describes mycelium, the fungi’s vast network of communication channels (like our neurotransmitters) underground, as being the Earth’s internet. I can only speak from the position of my own quarantine bubble, obviously and, I think it’s time we tapped into that technology. In the words of Seinfield, “They’re real and they’re spectacular.” It was moving to listen to psychedelic mushroom experiences, particularly from the end-of-life patients. I couldn’t believe that I was watching people speak openly about their psilocybin use, or the Stoned Ape theory, etc. Paul Stamets account of his naturally epic psilocybin trip, hugging the top of a tree in the forest during a storm, that cured his severe, life-long stutter? The man couldn’t express himself. One session, gone.
The documentary coming out in the middle of this coronavirus situation was strangely perfect timing. It was supposed to be released in theaters yesterday, so they decided to make it available for purchase and rent on the Fantastic Fungi website. Much appreciated. Terrence McKenna believed that fungi are extraterrestrial life on Earth, and after researching into it, that might be true actually, but it depends on how you define an “extraterrestrial.” (Think about fungi being extraterrestrial life forms while you watch it! It’s trippy.) Check out the movie, share it. It might not be new information for some of us, but fungi are incredible to watch in action. It is such a gift to belong here. We belong to something that is so astoundingly creative. We have significant problems to address. No one is saying that fungi can solve all our problems, but expanding our consciousness, making us better problem solvers, along with their ability to eat our plastic? That sounds like a plan I can get behind. In the film, would I have preferred a different narrator or a more mature voice with the gravitas to speak to us as the fungi? Yes. I understand that Brie Larson appeals to mass-market consumers that watch Captain Marvel, and I appreciate she stepped up to support the fungi. Others felt Brie Larson’s voice was celestial, clear, and heartfelt. You decide. Besides that, Fantastic Fungi brings the magical realm of the fungi to life–their history, benefits (including psychedelic), mystery, and untapped potential. Fungi can even stop the bed bugs. Anyone who has gone through their terror knows that’s close to an impossible feat. And, they’re capable of fighting viruses. It’s time to team up with the fungi. That’s the thesis statement. Come to a special screening of Fantastic Fungi at Meet Delic this August 8 9th! It’ll be about the time to see this on a state-of-the-art dome.
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