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Graham: See all the energy in ‘Unknown’

Local psychology professor Gary Schwartz is among the insightful interviewees in Renée Scheltema's documentary.

Local psychology professor Gary Schwartz is among the insightful interviewees in Renée Scheltema's documentary.

Art always goes in search of deeper truths. Otherwise, it isn’t really art. But sometimes, that deeper truth comes looking for the artist.

Just ask Renée Scheltema. The Dutch filmmaker traveled to the Arizona International Film Festival recently with a story of spending her own money and eight years of her life to develop and produce the documentary, “Something Unknown Is Doing We Don’t Know What.”

She insisted Tucson be the city for the world première of this film connecting quantum physics and the paranormal because a similar documentary “What The (bleep) Do We Know?” was warmly received here back in 2004. That controversial picture, using quantum physics to explain spiritual forces, played in the Old Pueblo for more than six months.

“I started thinking of my film in 2000,” says Scheltema, “Long before ‘What the (bleep)’ came out.”

Her inspiration was far more direct, a series of three seemingly mysterious examples of telepathic forces in her personal life. Those events convinced Scheltema deeper truths were being discovered in the present-day pioneering work of psychic phenomena specialists as well as physicists doing research in the quantum realm.

“I just started writing. I had more than 350 pages. It was philosophy, it was also a story. Then I reduced it down to 150 pages, and asked two people I respected if they thought this had promise as a movie script,” Scheltema explains.

Fortunately, one of those people was the Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (“Basic Instinct,” “Robocop,” “Total Recall”). He encouraged her.

While continuing to work as an independent filmmaker in Dutch and South African television, Scheltema was funneling her own money into this special project. Using the working title “Soul Safari” she ended up with 100 hours of videotape.

Oops, that would be a really long movie. Feeling that every edit was like slicing off another pound of her own flesh, she painfully trimmed the videotape down to six hours.

Exhausted, she hired a merciless editor who reduced those six hours to 90 minutes. But then Scheltema couldn’t stand it. She added back 15 of those precious, edited minutes.

Sometimes too much editing is just too much. All those brutal cuts and then changing to that long, intriguing title must have worked, though. At the Arizona International Film Festival, her 105-minute “Something Unknown Is Doing We Don’t Know What” received the Special Jury Award. That honor sets the pace for recognition from the 12 additional festivals she has submitted to.

Scheltema has taken a hard line in her investigation, using techniques much like a journalist.

“I wanted to avoid any religious connection,” she says. “And I knew the scientists would give the film credibility, but I also wanted to go beyond quantum physics.”

Basically, Scheltema’s objective is to demonstrate that psychic abilities are part of our inherent nature; that these mysterious forces are examples of real forces following the same laws of physics as everything else. Forces that only now are beginning to be explained with laboratory experiments.

The five fields are: telepathy (mind reading), precognition (seeing into the future), psychic healing, telekinesis (using the mind to move objects) and clairvoyance (remote viewing).

The most convincing interview is with Gary Schwartz, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, no less. His lengthy explanations connect psychic energy to electrical energy. He uses logic similar to the connections quantum physicists made that raised so many eyebrows in “What The (bleep).”

The truth that pursued Scheltema so doggedly, pushing her to record some of these early scientific explorations along the frontier of inner knowledge, has been rewarded with a worthy display of ideas. See for yourself at somethingunknown.com.

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