What is the story of our alternative healing culture here in the Mullumbimby area? Brunswick Valley Historical Society have commissioned award-winning filmmaker Sharon Shostak to make a new film, Mullum Magic, with part one on health and wellbeing. Part One is premiering this week! The Echo spoke with Sharon about what happened behind the lens.
Why have you chosen to focus on health and wellbeing in this film?
Originally the BVHS commissioned a doco on the culture of the 70s–80s as a followup on Mullumbimby’s Madness – the Legacy of the Hippies, which chronicled the initial early settlement. They wanted to document the origins of things we take for granted in this area today and how they’ve seeded into the larger society, sometimes even internationally. So I looked at the various expressions of culture and loosely grouped these into three main areas. After tracking down and interviewing more than 40 practitioners from the 70s–80s, Health and Wellbeing was the first topic I began editing and we soon realised that it was a feature in its own right. So now we have a Culture series, with Activism and Politics to follow next year, then the Arts.
How do our choices around food and healing reflect the bigger story of who we are?
The alternatives/hippies brought new awareness to all aspects of living, and the plethora of choices around food and healing still available today are a direct result of that pioneering time. The urgency of the hippy vision to walk gently on the Earth and become responsible for all aspects of their wellbeing is even more profoundly needed today. It has defined our Shire, though nowadays you’ll find little pockets of similar availability in the cities. Whether it’s what you put in your body or how you choose to address problems that may arise, the freedom to make those choices is probably the actual defining factor and the bigger story of what makes us who we are.
Whom do you feature in the documentary?
There are five sub-stories contained in part one and each one looks at the ‘firsts’ and how their legacy continues: how the iconic Santos Organics began as a delivery run in the back hills, the first hippy eatery known as The Sunflower Restaurant and the zany characters who ran it, the first yoga classes, the first home birthing and the local medical team who enabled it, the first acupuncture and homeopathy, and the hippy couple whose backyard herb garden grew into a multi-million dollar oils business.
What were some of the stories you came across that surprised you?
There’ve been many surprises – though I grew up here with many of the people I’ve interviewed, I never really knew their stories. So each time I sit down with someone in a formal interview to gain their oral history, it’s revelatory. There’s a lot of humour to these people’s retrospective view, as well as an intimacy and depth that has allowed me to create a compelling and entertaining film.
Have we lived longer healthier lives, do you think? Is that what the documentary shows?
This documentary sets out to chronicle a special time when freedom abounded on many levels that is simply not available today, whether owing to regulation or finances or population pressure. It’s also an intimate walk through archival pictures and footage that would simply never be seen by the public if these people had not been interviewed. We are preserving the community’s stories; whether their choices worked or not are up to the judgment of the viewer.
What is the spirit of this doco?
Some of those early alternative settlers were culture pioneers. They planted the seeds of many things we take for granted today, that define our area as an alternative mecca in some respects, but also infuse it with an orientation to freedom and choice (which is sadly on the way to becoming a rarer commodity). The BVHS is gifting our ageing alternative elders their own stories, as well as creating a legacy for newcomers to appreciate. As a not-fot-profit organisation, every DVD sold or screening attended feeds directly back into their ability to preserve the history of our area.
Mullum Civic Hall on Saturday at 7.30pm. Drinks from 6.30pm. Music after by Broadfoot.
Future screenings: Friday 1 December at the Byron Theatre at 7.30pm and Saturday 2 December at the Drill Hall at 5pm and 7.30pm.