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Pat Murphy’s insightful documentary Psychedelia Premieres at the 2016 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 17!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 10/24/2016

Pat Murphy’s insightful documentary Psychedelia Premieres at the 2016 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 17!

Pat Murphy’s insightful documentary Psychedelia Premieres at the 2016 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 17!

Here is an interview with Psychedelia Director Pat Murphy:

Nigrin:  Your smart documentary chronicles the use of mind-altering drugs, and their ability to induce mystical, or religious, experiences, in controlled psychotherapy studies that took place prior to the counterculture of the 1960s. What motivated you to make this film and tell our readers what they can expect to see? 

Murphy: I started making this film when I was a student at NYU film school and overheard a conversation about a research team studying the effects of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) at the NYU School of Medicine. As I began to talk to the researchers I learned that LSD and psilocybin were originally seen as a highly effective medicine to treat people dealing with depression, addiction, end-of-life anxiety, and other conditions for which mainstream medicine often had so little to offer. 

Learning about this history immediately piqued my interest and I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore in a film. It became clear that psychedelics (when used properly) can have a huge and life-changing impact on a person's outlook. It was also apparent that psychedelics have earned their reputation based on some the excesses of the 1960s, and not the promising research that took place before it. 



 
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One mark of a good documentary is its ability to shed light on a topic you wouldn't normally come across, or to show it in a different light. I think people who come to watch the film can expect to see a serious and academic approach to a subject they might otherwise view in a very different light. 

Nigrin:  You use archival footage, artistic images, and interviews with leading experts in the field of psychedelic research to tell the history of Psychedelia. How long did it take you to make this film given the plethora of types of info you had to track down? 

Murphy: The film took about four-and-a-half years to produce. Working largely as a "one-man band" meant that I did all the research and editing myself, which required countless hours. Luckily during research I came across a handful of government-produced films from the 1950s and 60s, which showed people taking part in LSD research studies and which provided me with the bulk of the archival material.

In terms of interviews, it took me some time to get access to the researchers, but over time the people involved grew and grew. As I interviewed more experts I was led to other experts and I was also learning more about the topic, which helped me prepare better and ask more focused questions. All in all, it was a very organic process in that I was learning as I went along and also finding the story and the focus in the editing process, which was painstaking. 

Nigrin:  Were there any memorable stories in getting the film finished or any other info about your film you can pass on to us?
 

Murphy: I would say that one of the things that really stuck with me was gaining the trust of my interview subjects. When I first approached the researchers with the idea of doing a film, they were a bit hesitant, and it took months of persistence to get acquainted and gain their trust to do an interview. As the film went along, we became friends and it was actually their idea to have me interview the participants in the study, which became the payoff and the highlight of the film. For me it was good filmmaking lesson, and it reaffirmed how reciprocal documentary can be for both subject and filmmaker. 

Here is more info on this screening:

Flesh – Kather Sei (South River, New Jersey)  An existential film about a battered woman turned sociopath. Belle becomes a wicked puppet master who pulls the strings of everyone around her, manipulating them into executing a twisted and vengeful plot of deception. 2016; 15 min. With an introduction and Q+A session with Director Kather Sei!



 
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They Will All Die in Space Javier Chillon (Spain) A beautifully shot and suspenseful futuristic tale. When a young astronaut wakes up from a cryogenic sleep in a virtually-abandoned spaceship, he grows suspicious about the intentions of the two remaining fellow astronauts. With a pulsating score keeping the film’s tension high, They Will All Die in Space will suck you in and hold on to you until the end. 2015; 14 min.

Chrysalis – Keaton McGruder (Los Angeles, California) The year is 2144. Instead of growing older, every person is going through a process of genetic transformation known as Chrysalis. A million genes. A million possibilities. 

But for Tristan Winters, a spy in the Imaginat Division of Global Security, each new genetic cycle is a chance to develop a mutation of Monamine Oxidase, or... the psychopath gene. 2015; 19 min.

Post-Panoptic Gazing – M. Woods (Los Angeles, California) You will dance unlike you have ever danced before, with threads of everything you know, repackaged in metastatic digital packets of data rapidly going nowhere, blinking quickly into things outside the periphery of consciousness and knowledge, towards digital sickness that thirsts for absolution. Ignore the rabid gnashing of your teeth. Better to grin and bear it, and accept the perpetual post-Panoptic suspension (created via hand-processed super 8, 16mm, 35mm, and digital manipulation). 2016; 12 min.

Psychedelia – Pat Murphy (Brooklyn, New York)  This documentary thoughtfully chronicles the use of mind-altering drugs, and their ability to induce mystical, or religious, experiences, in controlled psychotherapy studies that took place prior to the counterculture of the 1960s. Blending archival footage, artistic images, and interviews with leading experts in the field of psychedelic research, Psychedelia reveals a fascinating and little-known history, that culminates with stories from participants in current research studies, whose experiences have transformed the way that they look at their inner lives and the outside world. 2015; 60 min. With an introduction and Q+A session with Director Pat Murphy!

Friday, June 17, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.


Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University


71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey


$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends


Information: (848) 932-8482;
www.njfilmfest.com

Jimmy John’s of New Brunswick and Capitol Corn & Confections will be providing free food prior to all New Jersey International Film Festival  Screenings!




Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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