Spiritist film festival opens in London

Chico film posterLONDON. A five-day free Spiritist film festival starts tomorrow in London. It features the teachings received at seances by Allan Kardec, on which Spiritism is based, as well as the remarkable abilities of some of its top automatic writing mediums – notably Candido “Chico” Xavier and Divaldo Franco – and the evidence for life after death they have provided.

The event takes place at Queen Mary, University of London, at Mile End. Some of the screenings are already sold out.

Divaldo Franco posterThe 1st Lusophonic Spiritist/Spiritualist Film Festival kicks off with a 2005 film, Allan Kardec, the Educator. Lusophonic – for those unfamiliar with the word – means “Portuguese-speaking”, reflecting the popularity of Spiritism in Brazil, which was once a Portuguese colony. The language is spoken by 263 million people, so it is ranked sixth in the world.

The good news is that all the films will have English subtitles. To view the programme and reserve a seat at one or more of the films, click here.  Business commitments will prevent me from attending until the final day and a screening of the biographical account of Chico’s life which was a box office hit in Brazil. I’ve also been asked to take part in a panel discussion  at the end of the film.

Regular readers of my Blog will remember that I wrote about the success of the biopic in April last year, so I welcome this opportunity to view it at last. At around the same time, I reviewed Guy Lyon Playfair’s book about the famous Brazilian, Chico Xavier: Medium of the Century for the Society for Psychical Research‘s Journal (published in Vol 75.2, No. 903, April 2011, pp125-127).

Now would seem to be a good time to share that review with readers of my Blog:


This is the compelling and complex story of Brazil’s most famous medium, automatist Francisco Cândido Xavier, better known to his countrymen and to Spiritists the world over as “Chico”.

Brazilians regard him as a national hero. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1981, having received two million petitions from his admirers, including a former Brazilian president. The people of Minas Gerais voted him their “mineiro” (as natives of the state are called) of the century, ahead of a former president and the legendary footballer Pelé. When he died in 2002, a queue two miles long formed as an estimated 120,000 waited to pay their last respects to him, and 30,000 joined the funeral procession.

Eight years later, he was far from forgotten. The Brazilian Post Office commemorated the centenary of his birth, on 2 April, 2010, by issuing a new stamp depicting Chico signing a book, the national mint issued a special medallion, and a movie about his life and work, called simply Chico Xavier, went on general release, breaking box office records as more than two million paid to see it in the first month.

It would be easy to dismiss such adulation if it were based on the same flimsy admiration that puts popstars on a pedestal and just as quickly discards them. But Playfair does a masterful job of demonstrating why such reverence is undoubtedly justified, suggesting in fact that “medium of the century” would be a suitable description for this simple, self-effacing man with the remarkable gift of psychography – the term Spiritists use for automatists controlled by spirits as opposed to those who practice automatic writing, which is seen as a manifestation of the subconscious.

Here, in a nutshell, is why Chico Xavier is so important, not only to Brazilians and Spiritists but to the whole field of parapsychology. The son of an illiterate lottery ticket seller, Chico left school at 13 having had a rudimentary education. Yet, within a few years, he was producing automatic writing scripts, apparently from different deceased authors and on topics about which he had never learned. Indeed, he admitted that he didn’t understand most of what was written through his hand.

Soon, these trance sessions were being held in public and there is ample testimony about the speed with which they were produced. One witness was a well-known writer of soap operas who reports: “Chico divided a pile of paper into two, went into trance, and started writing with both hands at the same time, getting simultaneous messages from André Luiz and Humberto de Campos. How could I still have any doubts when that happened right in front of me? That was too much.”

These two writers, along with Emmanuel, his chief spirit guide who is said to have been a Roman Emperor and a priest in previous incarnations, became the authors whose works, produced through Chico’s mediumship, have become best-sellers. Humberto de Campos was a well-known academician who took a great interest in Chico’s writing whilst still on Earth and made a study of Parnassus From Beyond The Tomb. This consists of 259 poems, written and signed by 56 of the greatest of Brazil’s and Portugal’s deceased poets through Chico’s industrious hand. He testified that “their authors were showing the same characteristics of inspiration and expression that identified them on this planet”. Another well-known Brazilian writer, Monteiro Lobato, declared: “If this man [Chico] produced all this on his own, then he can occupy as many chairs in the Academy as he likes!”

When Campos died, soon after studying Parnassus, he joined Chico’s band of spirits almost immediately, resulting in the five books he produced between 1937 and 1942 being praised by other writers, including one who commented that they were “full of the thousand and one technical mannerisms of Humberto”. His widow took Chico to court on the basis that, if these were produced by her dead husband, she was entitled to author’s rights. The judge decided that since Campos was dead, he no longer had rights.

The story of Chico Xavier’s mediumship would be impressive enough if it were just about great literary works being dictated from beyond. But Chico also produced scripts containing extraordinary personal evidence from dead loved ones, including names, dates and details that he could not have known by normal means. Some of this, we learn, was even used in court with dramatic results, including one case that made legal history.

It was not only Chico’s mediumship that inspired people, it was also his attitude to fame and fortune. He refused payment for his work, donating all the proceeds to Spiritist charities which helped the poor and the sick, including 50 welfare organisations that operate under the name Nosso Lar (Our Home), which happens to be the title of a monumental work, dictated by André Luiz, about life in the spirit world. Consisting of 12 books, nine of which are novels, it has been

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