Fungi are the most ubiquitous but among the least widely-understood life forms on our planet. Neither plant nor animal, they are in our bodies and beneath our feet, connecting forests in complex webs and playing an essential role in breaking down dead organisms. Through interviews with scientists, chefs and members of the rapidly growing community of amateur mycologists, this documentary takes an up-close look at these endlessly fascinating organisms.
In less than 90 minutes it covers as much ground as a mycelial network, including fungi life cycles and their unique biology and history. This includes Terence McKenna’s mind-blowing theory that psilocybin mushrooms, which have been consumed by societies the world over, contributed to the rapid expansion of the human brain which allowed us to conquer the world. They found a new audience in the psychadelic boom of the 1960s, eventually leading to a backlash against research in the field which has only recently begun to thaw.
Fun guy of fungi Paul Stamets has a particularly interesting story – a childhood stammer led to his staring at the ground in fear of social interaction, leading to his love of fungi, resulting in the epic mushroom trip which finally cured his stammer. And this is but one of the remarkable stories of the therapeutic benefits of mushrooms from cancer to depression. We even find out about possibilities for fungi to clean up oil spills and tackle climate change.
It’s told through stunning cinematography – with numerous time-lapsed videos of mushroom growth which are consistently satisfying – and glorious visualisations, making this a treat even for sober eyes. And thanks to the enthusiasm of its participants this not obviously fascinating topic (at least for those of us with limited interest in the eating of mushrooms) is kept endlessly engrossing, without mush room for improvement.