Know Your Mushrooms Movie: End Fungi-Phobia Now

Mushroom field guide author Gary Lincoff recounts hilarious fungi encounter (via Filmswelike on YouTube)

Humble, largely misunderstood and yet mysteriously fascinating, the modern impression of the modest mushroom never usually goes beyond the typical commercial white button varieties. Thankfully, that's where Toronto-based alternative filmmaker Ron Mann steps in with his latest feature, Know Your Mushrooms - a fun, quirky but deeply educational foray into the incredibly diverse world of fungi.

From the edible to the medicinal, from the practical (bio-remediating mycelium) to the mystical (entheogenic "magic mushrooms"), the film attempts to expel "fungi-phobia" by making a case that the lowly mushroom plays a central role in the health of the planet.Mushroom celebrations and mushroom hunting
Filmed at the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, the film's protagonists include Larry Evans, known as the "the Indiana Jones of mushrooms," along with mycologist and mushroom field guide author Gary Lincoff. Both are confirmed fungi-philes: Evans with his anecdotes of his mushroom-hunting adventures in Bolivia, and Lincoff with his cultural analysis about the lack of fungi awareness:

Most people in North America are fungiphobes, because we don't have a tradition of collecting mushrooms in our forests over generations, as you find in Europe and Asia. The mushrooms that people do know about are the few types that are available in supermarkets, all varieties of the common button mushroom, which is cheap and easy to cultivate.

Fungi fun
Between intervals of deep fungal philosophizing, Mann keeps it light-hearted by interjecting animated "Fun with Fungi" trivia sequences. There are also archival clips of mushroom-lovers such as musician John Cage, scholar John Allegro (who advanced the theory that Jesus Christ was a mushroom) and ethnobotanist and visionary psychonaut Terence McKenna (who speculated in his "stoned ape" hypothesis that psychoactive mushrooms played a major role in the evolution of human consciousness).

Re-imagining mushrooms
As a unique lifeform with no other biological equivalent, there's no doubt that mushrooms have great potential in many areas. Long revered in Asian cultures for its medicinal value, modern science has found that it may have anti-cancer properties, while certain shamanic cultures have traditionally placed the mushroom in the centre of their mythological worldview.

Experimentally, they have proved to be very effective in what is called mycoremediation (using fungi in mycelial mats to clean contaminated areas). One example of this is the oyster mushroom, which has been found to successful in cleaning up oil spills, as an alternative to more harmful detergents.

Besides the evident hippie counterculture bent, perhaps the most provocative message that the film presents is neither a matter of scientific nor countercultural persuasion, but rather having an open mind, as Lincoff states in the video excerpt above:

"As I keep telling people, yesterday's science fiction is today's science. Things that we didn't think were possible, are possible. It's just a matter of partially technology, but largely imagination."

Know Your Mushrooms (site)

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