Peter Biella
Visual Anthropology
San Francisco State University


Yo soy hechicero is graceful and wise in the crafting of its elements. The film introduces the five hundred-year history of one man, Eduardo Núñez, a sorcerer whose many lives and works balance the center of his New Jersey congregation and its African deities.

With deceptive simplicity, the work is crafted in the shape of one day. Eduardo lights candles and opens his church. Congregants enter, seek advice and healing. Eduardo is possessed, instructed to cure with herbs, ointments, song and sacrifice. He offers words of strength, explains his curing as he conducts it. An initiate celebrates a year of service. Night falls. Eduardo describes the importance of humility with a religious story. A riverside baptismal ceremony occurs. Each of these events unfolds and the viewer comprehends another piece of the puzzle, a new facet of the gem. Incrementally, the richness and dimensionality of Eduardo's lives and congregation take shape.

The film has no sense of haste, no burden of narration, no foreign matter of outside talking heads. Rather, the viewers' learning is experiential, often visceral. As Eduardo teaches his congregation, displays graphically the truth of the deities who possess him, viewers also receive the word and observe the physical being of the spirits Eduardo serves.

The combination of physicality with song, prayer and explanation gives yo soy hechicero uncanny power as an ethnographic film. It is rarely the case that ethnographers who have the intimate entrée of filmmakers. Stanford and Drufovka are also gifted with their skill in visual communication.

Part of the joyfulness of the film comes from its combination of beauty and clear-sightedness. Although the story elements are structured on one level with a rigorous logic, on another level they are playful, lovely and very funny. The deities by whom Eduardo is possessed have a great sense of humor. The film embraces all of these elements in Eduardo's life and crafts them into a full, textured ring that suggests and surrounds the edgeless reality.