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‘Opuntia’ Tracks a 16th-Century Conquistador Who Became a Spiritual Explorer

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Opuntia

Logline: “Opuntia” is a feature documentary based on the writings of conquistador turned shaman Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the first European explorer of Texas and one of the strangest figures in US history.

Elevator Pitch:
Cabeza de Vaca got lost in Florida. Over the next eight years he wandered, naked, to the Pacific Ocean and became a shaman along the way. De Vaca is an unusual figure, so I’m using unconventional techniques to tell his story: I’m collaborating with a psychic and practicing mediumship to channel the spirit of de Vaca—who has chosen to communicate through the prickly pear cacti, the plant that saved him from starvation. I want to bring attention to this relatively unknown historical figure and to use de Vaca’s story as a jumping off point for an exploration of transformation.

Production Team:

David Fenster (“Pincus,” “Trona”) – Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor
Peter Bo Rappmund (“Topophilia,” “Tectonics”) – Sound Designer
Asher Hartman – Psychic Collaborator
Randi Malkin Steinberger – Executive Producer
Mikelle Kruger – Executive Producer

About the Film:
I read de Vaca’s book over a decade ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It seems to contain hidden meanings and buried secrets. I want to use de Vaca’s story as a means to explore spirituality, colonialism and personal and historical transformation. I’m interested in the ways de Vaca’s story bridges past and present; fact and fiction; and the material and spiritual worlds. It’s exciting to think this crazy project that has lived in my imagination for years is close to becoming a reality

Current Status: The film is 100% shot, thanks in part to a grant from the Austin Film Society, and is currently being edited.

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