Beyond the Pointy Hat [Shannon Meilak, Australia, 2018]
When most people hear Wicca, their first thoughts are most likely chairs, baskets or candles. This miniature documentary seeks to change that. Shedding light on a subject that’s so rarely discussed outside of Pottermore, Shannon Meilak’s film tackles some of the most basic FAQs about modern witchcraft.
Meilak begins by establishing some of the presumptions that she will later prove wrong. Witches do not always don black, have hooked noses and do not (contrary to popular belief) wear pointy hats. The style of the film is fun and light. It’s not out to stoke pity for its misunderstood practices, nor does it try to tell us everything there is to know. Instead, it gives a quick look at the surface of Wicca as several so-called ‘normal’ people join the coven for one night.
During the filmed ceremony, we learn what a broomstick is actually used for, what the rituals try to achieve and how the newcomers felt about their experience. What really stands out is how ordinary it all appears - more like a wellbeing retreat than a pagan cult. Imagine getting burnt at the stake for downloading Headspace.
Another interesting point is the parallel drawn between the Wicca and Catholic rituals. While the participants refer to the sense of ceremony and community, it is also notable that both include bread and wine. These similarities show just how arbitrary our concept of ‘normal’ is. Although the majority of the UK is now secular, by and large Catholicism is not considered a freakish form of worship. In contrast, witchcraft exists only at the very fringes of society. But what’s more bizarre: burning bread and wine as an offering to your Gods and Goddesses, or eating it with the conviction that it is the body and blood of the Son of your God?
In just over five minutes, Beyond the Pointy Hat provokes these important questions while maintaining a pleasant, gentle mood. By portraying contemporary witches in their day-to-day lives, it manages to simultaneously entertain and demystify the mysterious.
'Beyond the Pointy Hat' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.