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To speak about “Kumano”, his new project, Mathieu Le Lay quotes Henry David Thoreau : “We are all children of the mist (…) There is something in the mountain air that nurtures and sharpens the mind. It is through a strict and absolute alertness to details that humanity will be able to understand and appreciate the very essence of life (…). It is in wild life that lays the philosophy”.


This movie aims to introduce an ancient Japanese practice known as “Shugendo”. When Mathieu discovered it in 2010 thanks  to Canadian director Mark Patrick McGuire’s movie “Shugendo Now”, it had a deep impact on him: five years later, he decided to travel to meet a Yamabushi master and make a film on this practice. The movie will show the deep connections these monks have with mountains, nature and the Sacred.

KUMANO intends to plunge into Yamabushi Kosho Tateishi’s daily life, following the ritual prayers of this master and teacher of Shugendo for 25 years, in the sacred and misty mountains of Kumano. These places are highly mystics in the Japanese area and they inspired Mathieu with the huge spiritual dimension of his new movie. Yamabushi find their energy in Nature and natural elements. In “Shugendo”, the path to fulfilment through ‘gen’ – development of spiritual powers -, ‘do’ – practice – and ‘shu’ – ascetic virtue, the monk lives a contemplative and merging life fully connected to sacred mountains and magic forests. The images of the movie enhance this strong bond between man and Nature, the main subject Mathieu has been focused on for many years, and make clear that “Shugendo”, much more than a belief or a religion, is a philosophy and a way of living in harmony with nature and achieving balance and happiness. Those ancient Japanese traditions suggest very practical methods that make them so efficient. This is about knowing ourselves enough to see the reality as is it, without veiling it by our own thoughts. This is about opening ourselves and shedding through walks and loneliness in the mountains: there, the silence and the serenity shut down the conceptual activity of the mind; there, freed from dispersion and duality, can arise the clear inner light and a sense of total symbiosis with being and spiritual forces. Simply present, deeply here and now, intimately connected to nature: that is the state the movie presents and makes sensible for the viewers.

“Kumano” is a film project currently in progress.

Above: “Saito Goma” by Mathieu Le Lay. Shot for the fire celebration.

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