In Search of Voodoo: Roots to Heaven is a 2019 documentary made by Benin-born model turned actor, writer and filmmaker, Djimon Hounsou.
Mr, Hounsou, whose family name means “born in the voodoo shrine,” explores the origin, role and meaning of Voodoo in Benin. Like Hounsou, Voodoo’s roots are in Benin.
Hounsou is also our host in the film, but he wisely is off-screen for the most part, and beautifully narrates his story. Hounsou lets the people, places and Voodoo ceremonies tell the true, and truly, African story of Voodoo and its inseparable place in the fabric of Africa, and especially of Benin.
The people of Benin who are for and against Voodoo’s influence, speak frankly and directly to the viewer. Many of the interviewees repeat that Voodoo is not the method or way of evil as Christianity and Hollywood have told us. Voodoo, they say, is the way the Benin culture operates in accordance with Nature.
Every continent has been inhabited by civilizations that lived in harmony with Nature. Indigenous people have remembered and followed the earth-based cultures of their ancestors for millennia. So close is the bond between an indigenous people and their earth-based system, that to think, in this instance, that Voodoo is merely a religion, misses out on the cohesiveness and unity of purpose found in indigenous cultures.
I came away from the film knowing that I can’t avoid being an optimist. As a descendant of African people who were traded as slaves for hundreds of years, optimism is my heritage. My ancestors, who went from free-bodied to slave-bodied overnight had to be optimists. Similarly, my ancestors remaining in Africa and living under the tyranny of colonialism were optimists. One could say that as a result of this everlasting and inseparable Pan-African optimism, Voodoo was officially recognized as a religion by the Benin government in 1996 “to correct an injustice.”
This decree removed 500 years of colonial stigma from the heart of Benin culture. Only the optimism of a people can achieve such a victory.