In Pagans Down Under, for the first time audiences can experience the beauty and mystery of occult traditions under southern skies. Increasing numbers of Australians are drifting away from the big, monotheistic religions in search of their own sources of spirituality. In the 2016 census, 27,206 Australians identified as Pagan and the religion is growing exponentially here as a cultural experience, evidenced by Dark Mofo and the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival. In a time when Western culture has lost its sense of transcendence, dramatic rituals celebrating the turning of the seasons, and the mysteries of sex, death and human existence, provide deeply meaningful experiences to Pagans. But there are huge problems inherent in practising this nature-based religion south of the equator. Australia is a vast continent with distinctly different seasons and ecosystems. This is Aboriginal sacred country and many Elders believe that Pagan ritual practices can disturb the ancient song lines.
BEHIND THE SCENES
BEHIND THE SCENES
BEHIND THE SCENES
BEHIND THE SCENES
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Freedom of religion is a human right taken for granted by many Australians. However, for Pagans in Australia there is significant discrimination to the extent that the majority of those working in government departments and/or schools for example, keep their faith a secret for fear of intolerance.
In the Pagan Awareness Network’s (‘PAN’) submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission on Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century, PAN submits that:
“Areas of concern regarding freedom to practice our beliefs can be broadly categorised as follows:
• Religious vilification by members of other faith-communities
• Reporting in the media
• Institutional discrimination or lack of awareness on the part of Local, State and Federal governments and statutory authorities.”
Educating the Australian community about Paganism, promoting religious freedom, and tackling the isolation and discrimination faced by Australian Pagans will be key social impacts of the documentary.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
The film addresses the deep misunderstanding and discrimination towards Pagans in Australia, propagated through decades of sensationalist media reporting. Featured practitioners will reveal the beliefs and traditions behind their rituals and practices. Representing the depth of creative spirit, generosity and reverence for nature shared by Pagan communities will provide a much-needed antidote to the stereotypical representations of satanism and superstition circulating through mainstream media.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
Pagans Down Under aims to promote greater religious freedom in Australia and lessen discrimination faced by Australian Pagans.
The film will feature experienced Pagan practitioners and insightful commentary from academics. This will increase the diversity of voices on Australian television. It will also counter some of the sensationalised reporting of Paganism over the decades.
Indigenous protocols from Elders will inform audiences about how to respectfully practise nature-based spirituality on Aboriginal country.
The film will enrich Australian history by telling an untold story which began with the first occultists who arrived on the convict ships.
The film will highlight Paganism's strong eco-feminist themes with its reverence for nature and strong female Goddess archetypes.
Audiences will learn more about the Australian continent by exploring the challenges in adapting northern hemisphere nature-based religion to the seasons and ecosystems of Australia.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We have commenced conversations with various Pagan organisations (state representative groups and smaller covens and alliances) in Australia as well as the peak national body for advocacy, the Pagan Awareness Network. Their input informs us on the key issues facing Pagan communities to explore in the film.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
We hope the main action the film will prompt is discussion - formal and informal. Opening up dialogue in communities, classrooms, homes and workplaces would help break down discrimination and further religious freedom in Australia. Cinema-on-demand release will be a useful tool for Pagans in rural and remote areas to host a community screening followed by discussion. High school screenings accompanied by ATOM study guides will also prompt constructive discussion. Some viewers may be more likely to participate in community seasonal celebrations with greater understanding of their origins and importance in modern times.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
A survey will assist in evaluating social impact from the film. The survey can accompany screenings via cinema-on-demand and schools/tertiary education campuses. The survey would also be circulated through the Pagan community via PAN and/or annual conference gatherings. Indicators for success would be seen in shifts away from discriminatory beliefs towards Paganism, and positive responses towards the film by Pagan communities and individuals. The number of cinema-on-demand screenings and Compass ratings would also indicate the level of success in exposing a broad audience to the ideas and practices in the film.