A Bigger World
In order to get over the death of Paul, the love of her life, Corine (played by Cécile de France) leaves Paris for a few weeks to work as a sound engineer recording a shamanic ceremony in a remote corner of Mongolia populated by reindeer herders known as the Tsaatan. But her meeting with the shaman Oyun upends her plans, as Oyun tells Corine that she has received a rare gift and must be trained in shamanic traditions. She resists at first and returns to France, but she can’t shake off the shamanic visions and decides to return to Mongolia to begin her initiation… and discover a bigger world. This movie is based on the experience of Corine Sombrun, as told in her autobiographical account Mon initiation chez les Chamanes, who served as an advisor on the film. Since returning from her own experience in Mongolia, she has worked for 10 years with neuroscientists and psychiatrists in France doing brain research to understand the shamanic experience.
Fabienne Berthaud is a French writer, actress, screenwriter and director. She started her career as film and theater actor, wrote four books and the script for a short film that she also co-directed. When, in 2001, she discovered the psychiatric institution La Chesnai for a novel, she decided to film the clinic. Frankie (2005) was her feature début as director, followed by Little Sometimes (2010), Sky (2016), A Bigger World, and Little Man Tom (2021).
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Corine Sombrun grew up in Africa and returned to France to study musicology, piano and composition. Working for the BBC World Service, she was sent to Mongolia, where a highly respected local Dahradshaman recognized her as having unique shamanistic capabilities. She was invited to undertake the rigorous and intense training to become a Shaman, and after eight years she became the first Western woman fully trained in the Mongolian shamanic tradition. Her unique experience in the practice of shamanic trance and her ability to self-induce it have been a topic of interest for scientists. She has been collaborating with researchers since 2006, in order to show how this shamanic trance modifies the circuits of cerebral functioning. With researchers she developed “Cognitive Trance Training,” a sound-loop based program to help people experience an altered state of consciousness and learn how to self-induce it. Corine also collaborates extensively with artists, and she has written several books, translated into many languages, including In Geronimo’s Footsteps, Les Esprits de la steppe, and Mon initiation chez les Chamanes, which was adapted for cinema in A Bigger World.
Audrey Breton has a doctorate in cognitive neuroscientist and her interests include studying the effects of neurofeedback on the brain, and modified states of consciousness. She is the director of the Transcience Research Institute, where she coordinates different research projects on the study of the cognitive effects of trance states. Her own research currently focuses on the effect of self-induced trance on social cognition.
Shanny Peer is the Director of the Columbia Maison Française and holds a Ph.D. in French Studies from NYU. She is a co-curator of the Being in the World film festival.
Produced and presented by Columbia Maison Française
With additional support provided by Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Columbia Climate School, Knapp Family Foundation, Paul LeClerc Centennial Fund, Columbia University Institute for Ideas and Imagination, Columbia Global Centers | Paris, Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Alliance Program, and European Institute.
Curated by Shanny Peer, Fanny Guex and Clara Wilhelm
Screenings will be introduced or followed by panel discussions with invited scholars and, in some cases, the film directors. All films are subtitled in English.