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Smirsh Films Wraps ‘Empire of Juramidam’
22 Apr 2004 :

A scene from the film

Sligo based production company Smirsh Films are nearing completion of their latest documentary project ‘Empire of Juramidam’ which charts the evolution of the Church of the Eclectic Universal Light, Christianity’s "strangest offspring" which is now gathering a following in

both Ireland and Europe.

Some time ago director Colum Stapleton heard about a new religious group that was gathering momentum throughout Ireland with over 200 members. It is an Amazonian Church guaranteeing an encounter with the Divine - no faith needed - just the ability to stomach a mind-bending brew called ayahuasca.

The four person crew travelled to Brazil where they trekked and canoed into the heart of the Church’s origins to its headquarters on a million acres of virgin rainforest. For over half century the Church’s community has evolved, lead by a group of elders who twice monthly offer this strange communion to the inhabitants of Mapia village. Here they observed that nobody is forced to drink, kids queue up alongside eighty year olds and down the sour ‘death tea’ which they claim allows them access their true spirit nature, intunes them to Our Lady Queen of the Rainforest. For the ensuing ten hours they sway and dance, knowing that "the eclectic light of heaven is shining on them" and granting visions, "allowing them to truly see what they believe."

These tea drinking ceremonies can go on for up to twelve hours with much dancing and hymn singing. Throughout the ‘service’ the sacred persons invoked would be familiar to Christians, Christ, the saints, Mary and Biblical figures and eventually less known deities are mentioned; African and some native Amazonian. The core of this spiritual detective is trying to understand this unimaginable group-mind-world that the adherents enter after hours of dance and tea, “that joyful terrifying place which is the Empire of Juramidam.” That their has never been a film on the subject adherents say is “because this inner world is uncharitable.”

Stapleton was instantly drawn to this unusual subject matter. He says "it was the most interesting thing I had come across inside this country (Ireland) for a long time…it was an extraordinary story".

Shot on locations in Brazil, Ireland and Europe the documentary investigates the church providing arguments of scientists (Brazilian, USA, British and German) for and against the ingestion of the ayahuasca, made up of a mixture of jungle vines and leaves. It asks the fundamental questions of what is the impetus to spread the Church in Europe? Is it safe to allow people such "Shamanic incite" in an instant? There is an underlying conflict to the story due to the illegal status of the church in Ireland and Italy despite its acceptance in a number of countries in mainland Europe. The filmmakers examined the legalising of the sacrament in different countries gathering footage in the buildup to ceremonies in Holland, Northern Ireland, Spain (about 50 people attending at each) culminating in a secret gathering of the heads of Europe’s Daime Churches in Italy last October.

The documentary was shot on DigiBeta and DV and is currently posting in the North of Ireland. Produced by Colum Stapleton - MD of Smirsh Films and funded by the Irish Film Board, The Northern Ireland Film & TV Commission and ZDF. The film is expected to hit the festival circuit later this year and in 2005. Distribution deals for TV and Theatrical rights are currently being sought. Meantime, Smirsh Films are busy developing their next project based in Norway examining strange UFO sightings in a lonesome valley.


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