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Three Miles Ahead of the Game
by Kirstan Böttger

As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary Three Miles North of Molkom, my astonishment increased and perceptions of the film deepened when the two directors/producers took the stage at the FilmFest Hamburg. They looked so young!  And, they are, compared to me. My first thoughts were “How could such a fledgling pair cough out such well-made film?”

Meet Corinna Villari-McFarlane and Robert Cannan. Born in 1980 and 1978 respectively, they met on a previous film set, then, founded their own production company, Third Eye Films, to “express their observations of the world in liberating ways.”  After the post-film theater discussion, I met up with the team in the CinemaxX lobby and felt the need to have a brief discussion about how they got started in such a meaty topic as spirituality on their first film together. Not planning to conduct anything like an interview that evening, I found myself asking a few questions without any means for recording their answers, so I’ll just give you the gist of the conversation, instead.

Originally, the pair applied to the festival committee, which is organized by the two co-owners of the farm near Molkom. Permission first denied, their request was reconsidered; they had to organized the crew very quickly as they were finally granted last-minute approval.  With themselves, a cameraman and a sound man, the small crew began the process of gleaning their participants from over 1000 festival attendees. The opening day of the No-Mind festival brings everyone together to split off into “sharing groups,” so the team announced their documentary filming then and asked for volunteers willing to be exposed for the entire two weeks on camera. McFarlane and Cannan tried to meld a diverse group, thus awaiting a dynamic mix of personalities to show contrast and perhaps unexpected results for the documentary resolution. We agreed in our discussion that it is similar to getting a pile of Christmas presents….you never know what will be inside based on the outer packaging.  They did confide that some of the “subjects” surprised them at the conclusion of the festival; expected results are not all that easy to assess from the first contact. The one person that they definitely wanted to follow was Nick, simply because he was so outspoken from the onset, clearly stating that the whole festival atmosphere was hogwash and full of “tree huggers.” As a reluctant participant, he was a hot commodity for the filming team.

I asked Corinna and Robert if they themselves were affected by the open environment of the festival, or if they were personally moved in any way, and they did admit that there were moments of strong feelings and intense emotions. One specific incident they noted was a beach scene where a spiritual master was instructing the group in controlling and releasing their energy. Interaction was unexpected as the cameraman got knocked to the ground by a small Finnish grandma who was in the act of charging into the leader to release her negative energy. Painfully injured, there were strong feelings all around the beach, from onlookers who thought the practice was too much, to the victim who stood clutching her tailbone for the rest of the day. It proved the notion that there is also pain, both physical and emotional, on the path to enlightenment.

The success of the film, in my eyes, was the arc of the journey. Documentaries often begin with a great subject matter, only to bog down later in poor editing and too much information.  This team showed surprising expertise in giving the audience a seat in the circle without being intrusive, by displaying diverse and effective camerawork. The sound was right on, and all of the background music was from recordings of attendees at the festival. And finally, Corinna and Robert both commented on the amount of time they spent carefully editing the film. It is in the editing process that they wisely chose the right scenes and successfully presented us with a lovely view into the courage of those who converged in the woods for two weeks to let it all go.

As to the future, Third Eye Film Productions will continue to search for ideas that take the viewer on a journey of body, mind, or spirit.  Corinna and Robert are not afraid to delve deeper into the human psyche, and hope to take more steps in that direction.  With Three Miles North of Molkom, they are already three steps ahead of the game.