Ten years in the making, A Quest to Heal is an intimate human story that invites us to consider new ways of healing beyond the western medical model, exploring the healing powers of the heart and the untapped powers of the mind.
Following the work of John of God, a controversial spiritual healer from Brazil who has been attributed many miracles that science cannot explain. Filmmaker Michelle Mahrer spoke with The Echo.
What attracted you to Brazil to investigate John of God?
I am a dance therapist as well as a filmmaker and am very interested in the use of energy for healing. When my friend Lya was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and decided to go and see John of God I asked her if I could document her journey.
What were the questions that you wanted to tackle in the documentary?
I was looking to explore different ways of healing beyond the western medical model and its focus on curing the physical body.
What I discovered at the healing centre was an approach that sees healing as a totality of mind, body and spirit, and that like many spiritual traditions the belief is that our body is only temporary and our spirit is eternal so it makes sense that healing must include that part of ourselves.
How did you approach it? Did you remain objective? Did you change your mind? How important is it for the documentary maker to stand apart from the subject?
In the film I am the narrator of the story and do take an objective view, and show a range of experiences where some people receive a lot of healing and others don’t experience anything. I think it is important to stand back; however, you are also bringing yourself and your own beliefs and that is part of it too.
Who is John of God and how did he become a healer? Who was he before?
Joao Texeira de Faria, also known as John of God, is a world-famous Brazilian spiritual healer who has been doing healing work his whole life. He was born with a gift to communicate with spirits. He is a simple man who is also a farmer and doesn’t read or write.
Why do you think people are drawn to him? Does it work? Did you see any real changes or healings?
What I discovered in making the film is that it’s not actually about John of God but the energy field that is experienced at the healing centre. He is not a guru and never says he heals anybody, but he is simply a vessel for the spirits who heal through him.
I think thousands of people go there because they are experiencing a healing energy there that helps them tap into their own healing source, and this is really the message of the film. That inside of us we have a huge capacity to access our own healing.
At the healing centre they talk about opening our hearts and having gratitude and forgiving ourselves and others that may generate healing from within that may or may not influence our physical body. The main teaching there is the power of love and forgiveness to heal, that love is an extraordinarily powerful healing tool. In the healing centre, which is actually called the current room, hundreds of people sit in meditation and it is a very high vibrational powerful energy field that I also felt. I have never experienced anything quite like that. Everyone is actively encouraged to contribute to their healing process; that was inspiring and empowering.
My story focuses on the journey of two of my friends – Lya with advanced cancer and Fred with HIV – and I also film many other experiences, some with miracle healing stories and others with healing over a period of time and others with not many results, so it seems to be very individual. However, most people were experiencing something that was positive even if it was learning to slow down and meditate and be quiet and go within.
After a sold-out screening last week the film A Quest to Heal returns for a second screening at the Brunswick Picture House on Thursday 28 September.