“Personal and provoking.” -Anne Driscoll: Boston Globe
“Very funny and very smart. Should play in Salem every day and every night forever.” -Bo Smith, Curator: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
A film by Joe Cultrera, Henry Ferrini, Phil Lamy, Bob Quinn and John Stanton
Witch City is a cautionary tale about the consequences of co-opting history. With appearances by Arthur Miller, Elie Wiesel and Laurie Cabot, “The Official Witch of Salem.”
Salem Massachusetts is a place that exists as both a city and a metaphor. The witch trial hysteria that consumed it in 1692, sent 20 men and women to their deaths. It also sent the phrase witch hunt into the American lexicon. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s take on Puritanism, and Arthur Miller’s take on McCarthyism both use Salem as a metaphor for intolerance and persecution. In Witch Citythe filmmakers find that commercialism and greed are the new metaphors.
The tragedy of 1692 has become Salem’s meal ticket. As Salem prepares to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the witchcraft trials, Witch City director Joe Cultrera returns to the working-class, ethnic neighborhood of Salem that he knew in his boyhood. Things have changed in the City of Peace. The witch-on-broomstick has become the stop-by-for-a-spell industry that draws tourists from around the world.
Perhaps even more alienating to a returning native is the emergence of Salem as a battle site in the culture war between the New Age Wiccans and religious fundamentalists. Like the t-shirt salesmen and wax museum owners, these groups have not necessarily shown themselves to be above making a few bucks in the name of religion. Against this backdrop of money and metaphor, Witch City tells a cautionary tale of what happens when history is distorted by both merchants and would-be prophets.