About movie

The possibility of spirits

Original title The possibility of spirits


I was brought up to believe that spirits do not exist: people who believed in them had somehow missed out on the true nature of things.

Years of research on Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion, taught me the limits of such euro-centric definitions of the possible and the impossible. Refusing to choose between belief and disbelief, I embraced my not-knowing. I opted to be baffled.

“The Possibility of Spirits” is an essayistic film that seeks to keep the mystery of the spirits centre stage. Borrowing from surrealist montage techniques, the estrangement effect of the Brechtian theatre and a Brazilian taste for the genuinely fabricated, it invites viewers to let themselves be confused and – in this confusion – consider the possibility of spirits.

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Author/s Mattijs van de Port

Mattijs van de Port is professor of anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He did research in Serbia, and since 2001 in Bahia, Brazil. He is author of a monograph on Gypsy musicians and their Serbian customers (1998) and on global encounters on the threshold of candomblé temples in Bahia (2011). His first documentary, Saborear Frutas Brasileiras, on eating Bahian fruits, was shown at the RAI Ethnographic Filmfestival in Edinburgh, and theorized, with Annemarie Mol, in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2013). The Possibility of Spirits, using footage from 6 years of filming in Bahia, was completed in 2016.

Research Mattijs van de Port
Photography Mattijs van de Port
Sound Mattijs van de Port
Editing Mattijs van de Port