Where does a wizard find knowledge? Is it from arcane teachings handed down over centuries in the form of books? Maybe sacred wisdom is rooted in some kind of inner knowing that provides a path to the light. Or perhaps still, one can find enlightenment, power, and healing somewhere as unlikely as Second Life, just as with 21st century wizard, Oz. Titled simply The Wizard Oz, a new 23-minute documentary profiles the self-appointed wizard Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, aka Oz, offering a glimpse into the mind of a rare man who thrives off stories and legends, and yearns to pass them along.
The film recently won best short documentary at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, and is directed by Danny Yourd, who produced Almost Holy, featured in the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015, and Blood Brother, a Sundance Grand Jury winner in 2013. Yourd decided to make a film about Oz in 2014, after reading a VICE story on the wizard's magic school, the Grey School of Wizardry, which takes place entirely on Second Life. The article inspired Yourd to dig deeper and read a biography of Oz called The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism, which eventually led to the making of the film.
Alternately heartbreaking, hopeful, and hypnotic, Yourd's documentary is a touching look at Oz, a wise man who has given his life to studying and understanding the murky interstices of myth and magic. "His life story flowed like a fairytale," Yourd tells Creators. "It was so strange and bizarre, but also human and fascinating."
The film is full of ethereal imagery interspersed with charms, totems, amulets, tarot cards, and cluttered altars thick with incense. Its story flows like a dream, chronicling Oz's partnership with the love of his life, Morning Glory, and the extended period when the pair raised unicorns for the circus, before Morning Glory's death from cancer forced Oz to forge ahead on his own.
One of the larger themes in the film is that of personal legacy, and Oz seems concerned about his. Yet in the world of magic, there is a sense of wholeness, totality, and oneness that actually contradicts individual recognition, so one wonders how Oz is handling the idea of preserving his knowledge for future generations to explore.
"Oz believes in the power of a story," Yourd explains. "I think he wants his story to be remembered and passed on, definitely. The magic he believes in seems to live and thrive in stories, and Oz has been hard at work over the course of his life to preserve his legacy."
Based in Santa Cruz, CA, Oz is not just investigating the world of magic through his online wizarding academy; he's also heavily involved in the Santa Cruz-based Academy of Arcana. "The front of the academy is a shop full of homemade items, sci-fi toys, books, et cetera," Yourd describes. "As you go through a small doorway draped with hanging beads, you enter into Oberon's personal library, which is where you see him being interviewed in the film. If you go further back, you enter into his Museum of Mysteries. His museum is impressive and offers a collection of many things he has collected over his journeys."
The Wizard Oz leaves audiences wanting more, and it certainly seems there's enough material for Yourd to have made a feature-length documentary about Oz. So why didn't he?
"We have hours upon hours of interviews, and I would have loved for this to be a feature," Yourd says. "But some of the stories were just hard to tell not having appropriate visuals to accompany it. For example, his college years were incredible, but there really weren't photos or video to properly tell the stories. His memoir is a 432 page journey through his life, and I wish I had more footage to tell every story in there. He holds nothing back."
Fortunately, Oz is still alive and well, and for anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating man—well, there's always Second Life.