A healer is born in Talking Story, a documentary adventure about traditional healers and their practices. Director Marie-Rose Phan-le meets over a dozen world healers as she reclaims her own family legacy.
Director of photography Joseph Hudson captures vivid, memorable portraits of each healer amidst the ancient cultures of Hawaii, Peru, Nepal, Vietnam, India and China.
During the journey, Phan-le discovers her own calling to heal. To sponsor a screening of Talking Story, contact the director.
From restless traveler to healer
“In the wake of globalization, many cultures were on the verge of losing their elders, and with them, precious healing traditions and spiritual knowledge,” notes Phan-le. Following a successful career in TV and film, she decided to document this wisdom.
At age four, Phan-le emigrated with her family from Vietnam to the U.S. Tales of her great-grandfather, a seer, and her aunt, a healer, became taboo. She was urged to assimilate into Western culture.
Phan-le observes, interviews and receives healing from each elder. All hold a spiritual world view. Compassion and selfless service emerge as common themes.
Called to honor and preserve
“Talking story” is what Hawaiians call slowing down and sharing stories. Every healer entrusts Phan-le with his or her own story.
Each visit is memorable. Pablo Amaringo Shuna (Don Pablo) is a retired shaman who runs an arts school for underprivileged children in the Peruvian Amazon. Robert Po’okapu Keli’iho’omalu Sr. (Uncle Robert) is a charismatic Hawaiian elder. He founded a Nature Walk filled with rare medicinal plants after lava flow spared his land in 1990. Powerful footage shows the molten lava dissolving highways and yards.
Honoring Goddess Pele
Sylvester Kepilino (Papa K), a well-known kahuna and master of lomilomi, expresses his reverence for the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess Pele. Hawaiian healing combines the use of physical elements of the islands with prayer. God is the actual healer, he says.
Phan-le visits her aunt Tran Thi Lien, a retired healer. Aunt Lien explains how three goddesses worked through her to heal illnesses of the body, mind and spirit.
Her niece has the ability to become a healer if she chooses, her aunt reveals. First, she will have to pass a test of character. A healer becomes a sacred vessel for compassion, a conduit between heaven and earth. Later, she is told to undergo training, purification and spiritual practice.
Oracle tests character
In one dramatic scene, an oracle takes over Phan-le’s body. The crew films as her body cries and writhes in pain. Finally the being speaks, telling listeners to purify themselves. After returning to normal consciousness, the director did not remember the incident.
Witnessing power and mystery
Talking Story introduces you to power and mystery as it highlights teachable moments. In making this film, defining her dream and living it, Phan-le demonstrates upaya, skillful means.
The director now practices healing and is writing a book. She founded the Healing Planet Project, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the healing arts.
Talking Story 2011 / NR / 1 hour, 25 min
Cast Overview: Pablo Amaringo Shuna, Robert Po’okapu Keli’iho’omalu Sr., Mary Fragas, Sylvester K. Kepilino (Papa K), Tran Thi Lien, Takka Bahadur Rokaya, Sonam Gyalpo, Nyadak Lama, Dragpa Choden (Agu Lama), Samten Chobal, Tsering Chobal Lama, Mangale, Sher Bahadur, Rigzin Mangyal, Tsering Paljor, Dongba
Director: Marie-Rose Phan-le
Genre: Documentary, Adventure