Luminous fungi at Mawlynnong, India.
Luminous fungi at Mawlynnong, India.

Stunning film delves into alien-looking world of fungi

FUNGI that glows in the dark, exotic new species never classified by scientists, plus a look into a traditional religious ceremony in a remote village in India, are part of the new documentary Planet Fungi – North East India.

Northern Rivers filmmakers Catherine Marciniak and Stephen Axford produced the 50-minute documentary to be released online for streaming on November 1.

Mr Axford’s images of mushrooms have been featured in leading science and nature magazines across the globe, including exquisite time-lapses of fungi growing showcased in award-winning documentaries like Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth 2, Hostile Planet, Our Planet, The Kingdom – How Fungi Made The Earth and Fantastic Fungi.

The Lismore area resident said this is the first release of what could be a Planet Fungi series.

The doco was shot in 2018 and 2019, in month-long visits, when the couple were invited by Balapara Foundation an NGO from North East India.

“Normally we have a group of mycologists (fungi experts) with us, but in this case in 2018 we didn’t, because they couldn’t find any local mycologists to come along,” he said.

“In 2019 we had a mycologist from China.

“It’s the area above and to the east of Bangladesh, we concentrated on Meghalaya (population 2.6 million), a state of India that, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the wettest place on Earth.

“In the Northern Rivers we get 2m of rain a year, they get 12m. It’s very wet, which makes it perfect for fungi.”

Xylaria sp, with yellow tips sporing.
Xylaria sp, with yellow tips sporing.

Mr Axford said the documentary also features a number of Indian experiences.

“We went to a festival and we were the only European tourists, and the whole town of 30,000 people, everyone turned out, it was a great experience,” he said.

“Local people showed us where the mushrooms were, we were introduced to as ‘Kong’, which is the word for ‘sister’ in Khasi language.”

“In 2019 we found a luminous mushroom in Mawlynnong, a really small but really bright fungus, and mycologists found later on it was a new species.

“There were about 40 or 50 other new species we found in those trips.”

Mycena viscidocrudenta decomposing a leaf.
Mycena viscidocrudenta decomposing a leaf.

Mr Axford was recently invited to offer a talk for Yixi Television, the Chinese equivalent of TED Talks.

“The video Catherine and I put together has received more than 2.25 million views, for a half-hour video talk on mushrooms,” he said.

“They said that was quite high viewership for their videos.”

Northern Rivers filmmakers Steven Axford and Catherine Marciniak.
Northern Rivers filmmakers Steven Axford and Catherine Marciniak.

To watch the film, visit planetfungi.movie/ or search for it in Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes from November 1.

Read more>> Local photographer’s work in Attenborough’s Planet Earth 2


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