Rama Rau’s latest documentary “Coven” invites you into the enchanting world of three Canadian witches. Through skillful storytelling, Rau unravels their intricate and personal journeys, offering a spellbinding look into the profound meaning of witchcraft and Wicca in their lives. This captivating film recently premiered on CBC Docs, marking a special moment for Rau to share her masterful exploration of this fascinating subject.
Three millennial women embark on deeply personal quests to understand their identities and tap into their magical abilities in the illuminating documentary “Coven.” Through unravelling rituals, ancestral lore, and sacred places, they confront obstacles and reclaim their power.
Ayo, known musically as Witch Prophet, delves into her East African roots and the occult, seeking guidance from a mysterious Jamaican guru. Queen Erzulie in New Orleans informs the Witch Prophet of an obstacle blocking her path. Andra reconnects with her Romanian folklore magic, singing to spirits in a haunted forest.
Solitary witch Laura feels an energy shift drawing her to the community. Discovering her Salem ancestor, she undergoes past life regression, leading to questions and Scotland. As the women partake in honouring rituals, they embark on journeys of knowledge and healing.
While the film fulfills its premise, the experiences of the three women are fascinating in different ways. The main focus is on Laura, a spiritualist from Toronto, who is on a solitary path of self-discovery while traversing historical aberrations, including an ancestor from Salem. Although empathetic, Laura’s story is not as compelling as the others.
The standout narrative of “Coven” revolves around Witch Prophet, a Canadian musician whose live performance after the Hot Docs screening is captivating. Drawing on her psychic intuition and mastering the complexities of her cultural and spiritual background, Witch Prophet’s journey is the most compelling as she finds her way to self-discovery and magic.
According to y Andrew Parker, Rau knows that her role as a filmmaker is not to convince the audience, but to portray the protagonists of “Coven” as seekers, just like everyone else. These people are searching for their role in the world and making connections with elements that are perceived as authentic. “Coven” goes beyond the intricate details of witchcraft and Wicca. Instead, it paints a broader picture of individual agency and the formation of communities rooted in ancestral truths. These truths, in turn, intertwine with themes of queerness, artistic freedom, superstition, and rebellion against patriarchal norms.
Alisha Mughal from exclaim.ca thinks that in this powerful and contemplative documentary, ostensibly about modern witchcraft, Rau deftly demonstrates a deep awareness of the dangerous nature of womanhood in this world. Yet, she also reveals the latent power that lies within this danger, waiting to be reclaimed. “Coven” paints a vivid picture of what it means to fully embrace the present and reconcile it with one’s past and the shared world that surrounds us all. This deeply respectful documentary is crafted with tenderness and love, mirroring the sentiments it seeks to convey. “Coven” emerges as an essential and undeniable feminist force, inviting audiences to see and acknowledge its impactful narrative.
Rau’s three subjects serve as excellent guides through these seemingly uncharted spaces, and their journeys take “Coven” to visually stunning and culturally rich locations, including Scotland and a Black Witch University in New Orleans. It’s a pleasure to follow their narratives, and Rau’s approach allows them to simply exist in the moment, resulting in a truly magical journey.
According to Sean Kelly on Movies Review, In “Coven,” director Rama Rau portrays three contemporary witches in an unbiased way. The film refrains almost entirely from passing judgment on the Wiccan faith, which is perhaps not so different from other religions. It invites the viewer to approach the subject with an open mind and also to accept ideas such as the subjects’ dreams about their past lives. Although “Coven” is undeniably fascinating, it is a documentary that is most likely to resonate with viewers who already believe in witchcraft and other Wiccan practices.
Rama Rau: Writer and Director
Rama Rau has established herself as a groundbreaking Canadian filmmaker renowned for focusing on strong female leads and tackling daring subject matter. Known for her unique directorial voice that captivates critics, Rau has successfully navigated the worlds of fiction and documentary.
Her debut fiction feature, “Honey Bee,” starring Julia Sarah Stone and Martha Plimpton, recently received the EDA Best Film Award at the Whistler Film Festival. This gritty portrayal of human trafficking was shot on location in North Bay, Ontario. In recognition of her contributions to cinema, Rau was honoured with the Irving Avrich Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018. Rau’s profound documentary “The Daughter Tree,” delves into the disappearance of women in India, leading to all-male populations in certain villages.
Rau puts together all-female teams and has cemented her reputation with films such as “League of Exotique Dancers”,” which was enthusiastically received by Hot Docs Opening Night 2016. Her film about cyberbullying among teenagers, “No Place to Hide”, won the Audience Award in 2015.
Rau’s work has graced over 50 international film festivals and has been praised by media such as The Hollywood Reporter and The Toronto Star. She has been named one of Canada’s top ten female filmmakers and has received awards such as the EDA Best Film Award, the Hot Docs Don Haig Award, and the Golden Panda for Best Director.
Rau holds a Ph.D. from the University of Madras and is a graduate of WIDC and Joan Scheckel’s Director’s Lab. She is a proud member of the Alliance of Women Directors and the Director’s Guild of Canada.
With gorgeously shot locations, captivating protagonists, and thematic breadth, Rau establishes herself as a consummate documentarian who brings compelling stories of strong women to light. Her skillful storytelling and vision continue her stellar cinematic tradition with the wisdom, vulnerability, and spellbinding intimacy of “Coven.”