Northern Rivers filmmakers Steven Axford and Catherine Marciniak.
Northern Rivers filmmakers Steven Axford and Catherine Marciniak.

REVIEW: Planet Fungi, a delightful trip into unknown worlds

NORTHERN Rivers residents Stephen Axford and Catherine Marciniak travelled to the wettest place on Earth to make a one-hour documentary about fungi, and the result is an extraordinary, engaging and educational film.

Filmed in 2018 and 2019, Planet Fungi - North East India chronicles Axford and Marciniak's travel through the Indian state of Meghalaya, near Bangladesh.

They travelled invited by an Indian NGO, interested in recording the edible and poisonous mushrooms available in that area.

The benefits, we are explained, are many: commerce, medicine, avoiding unnecessary deaths and advancement of scientific knowledge.

 

 

The soul of the film is there, it's a trip to unknown words: this exotic place in India and the world of fungi.

And although Axford is not a scientist or a mycologist (mushroom expert) he always gets local and international scientific support, which means his trips normally end up with a few new species identified.

(We only know about 200,00 species of fungi, and experts thing there are millions to be discovered).

But the true blessings of this film are the people in it.

First, it's the Indian people that surround the Australians.

The religious, social, cultural and human aspects that surround mushrooms in India are, to say the least, delightful.

India is always complex, colourful and tasty, and just like its mushrooms, its people are unforgettable.

 

Northern Rivers filmmaker Steven Axford.
Northern Rivers filmmaker Steven Axford.

 

But then there is Axford and Marciniak.

Stephen Axford has been, for years, a fantastic photographer. Retired from IT, his passion was a technical one: great images of an unknown part of our ecology: fungi.

But in Planet Fungi, Axford becomes a presenter, and a fantastic one. He is amenable, emphatic, his interactions with people are genuine and his commentary, clear and succinct.

Marciniak, on the other hand, proves again to be a consummate documentarist.

This format fits her camera and editing skills like a glove.

 

Mycena viscidocrudenta decomposing a leaf.
Mycena viscidocrudenta decomposing a leaf.

 

Her structure is simple but effective. Simple animations make complex ideas available to young and old, and the editing, camera work and production are fantastic.

Planet Fungi could sit next to professional documentaries with ten times its budget and it would not be put to shame. If anything, it would be the most interesting one.

The local couple of filmmakers have achieved a remarkable film that is engaging, educational and terribly entertaining.

We are looking forward to the next one.

The film is available to watch now from planetfungi.movie/ or search for it in Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

Xylaria sp, with yellow tips sporing.
Xylaria sp, with yellow tips sporing.

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