Five years ago, Mattia Mura, a 28-year old Italian director, contacted us and shared that he wanted to make a documentary about Damanhur – an endeavor that became a four-year adventure. Today we are pleased to announce that the documentary is being nominated for the Special Jury Prize as ‘Best International Documentary’ at JIFFA – Jharkhand International Film Festival Awards – that is held annually in Ranchi, India!

We feel that the talent and tenacity that Mattia has displayed at his relatively young age are rather extraordinary, as indeed the chain of curious circumstances that had led him to Damanhur. We recently interviewed him and would like to share the highlights of the chat with you below.

Where did the idea of making a documentary about Damanhur come from?

It all started in 2016. I was in Fabrica, Benetton Communication Research Center, and I sensed there was some important reason why I found myself there. I felt that this need had a spiritual nature, in a way. At the time I had been doing research for a project that would describe Venice and Istanbul and the coexistence of Christian and Muslim realms there. In the end, however, the project could not proceed due to the political unrest emerging in Turkey. Meanwhile, Damanhur was constantly looming in: I had a pop-up on the computer that was mentioning the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Temples of Humankind. Then I had a colleague from Turin who was talking about you…, I saw a page in the newspaper describing Damanhur… It felt as if this was a ‘call’. I proposed the project to Fabrica, who rejected it because it was “not in line with their editorial policy”. So, I decided to proceed based on what I later learned was the principle characterizing the Temples of Humankind: if you believe in something, even if it seems impossible, you can make it happen. My boss back then supported me in this choice and I was able to find a way to carry on with the project on my own. It was a very long journey, but we did it.

What was this extensive work process like?

The beginning was easy: I sent an email to Damanhur and got a response from Formica, who at that time was in the communications office. She was not only my first contact with Damanhur, but also a surprise of finding out that she comes from the same region as I do! (we both come from Tuscany). I also felt we had common ‘roots’, connected in a greater way than through the place of origin. From that contact everything started to unravel in the best possible way. I met Celastrina and many others who became part of the project. Much of the footage was shot in 2017, which was a spectacular year. It took me a very long time to edit the material, both because of my personal story (I left Fabrica at the end of 2018, and started on my own shooting a lot of projects in Europe) and because relating Damanhur’s story is not an easy task at all. Damanhur is a diverse and multi-faceted reality, so I needed to create a journey that was both of a group and of an individual; I felt compelled to convey the essence of Damanhur and its many nuances. This required quite an elaborate analysis and drawing connections; a tedious work that could only be done within a prolonged period of time.

How was your first visit to the Temple?

While in the rest of Damanhur I visited places in preparation to film them, in the Temples I had the camera ready to go and I went into the shooting action straightaway! There’s a shot of that first day, at the beginning of the documentary, where Celastrina looks at the glass window in the Hall of the Earth… Sometimes filming on a location is complex – you have to spend time finding the right angle, understanding how to make it work… That day, however, was very natural – I had all the footage that I was interested in. It was as if the Temples were helping out.


What has impressed you the most in Damanhur?

The Temperance (as tarot card). During my first visit to Damanhur, I saw a group of artists crafting a statue of the Temperance. This immediately brought my awareness to one of the experiences that led me to Fabrica and eventually to Damanhur: a meeting with Marianne Costa, an ex-partner of Jodorowsky (a famous expert and researched of Tarot cards), and my study of the Tarot that followed. When I saw then the statue being conceived, I realized – I was on the right track. Then it was also nature, the circuits in the Sacred Woods, a certain ‘balsamic’ smell that you can perceive in the guest rooms in Damjl… There were many encounters and memories like these arriving at the beginning that I still carry with me, and I doubt I will ever forget.


How would you describe Damanhur to someone who has never visited?

I know it is no longer the way you would refer to yourself at this moment…, but for me Damanhur is a full-featured micronation, in the sense that when you get there, you actually feel like you found yourself in a foreign country. Different both in customs and in language, atmosphere and the approach to life. The concept of ‘boundaries’ is one of my areas of interest, and there are many aspects to it. For example, there are geographical boundaries or the limits of our knowledge and the mystical sphere… And then there is the discovery that our limitations are just the boundaries that we impose on ourselves. To illustrate how I would describe Damanhur – that would be the whole documentary! It is a fairly accurate reconstruction of how I would tell your story.

Watch the documentary trailer.

We will be organizing an online screening of the documentary soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for updates.