- This event has passed.
July 31 @ 1:00 pm - August 1 @ 1:00 pm
The Humongous Fungus Festival
The Humongous Fungus Among Us premier
July 31 1p & 7p – August 1p CT
Free admission- donations welcome for future theatre programming.
A locally filmed documentary, The Humongous Fungus Among Us, will be screened at the historic Crystal Theatre during the return of the Fungus Fest July 30 – Aug. 1.
In the works since 2013, the film is a passion project for Chicago-based filmmaker, editor, and 2000 Forest Park graduate, Tim Warmanen. Equal parts science documentary and a quirky homage to his hometown, the film traces the fascinating discovery and continuing study of the fungus — officially called Armillaria gallica — the international media frenzy, and the local Fungus Fest that grew up around it.
The documentary was an Official Selection of the online Environmental Film Festival at Yale University March 24–27, 2021. After the pandemic made large in-person gatherings impossible last year, the premiere at Crystal Theatre in downtown Crystal Falls is the first time the finished work will be viewed in a public setting. It also marks the inaugural use of the theatre’s new movie screen.
There are three documentary screening times: Saturday, July 31 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 1, at 1:00 p.m. No tickets are required for admission, but donations to offset the use of the theatre space are accepted at the door. The runtime is one hour.
“I’m so excited to be able to shed some light on the Humongous Fungus that has been a curiosity since I was a child. It’s a big part of Crystal Falls history, and I am honored to be able to play the film at Crystal Theatre in my hometown,” Warmanen said. “We are so thankful for all those willing to be interviewed and provide historical pieces to help tell the full story.”
The documentary features interviews by the scientists who studied the fungus in April of 1992 and initially named it among the largest and oldest living organisms at an estimated 38 acres, 100 tons, and thousands of years old. While many assumed it was an April Fools’ joke, Dr. Johann Bruhn, a retired Forest Pathologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and Dr. Jim Anderson and Dr. Myron Smith, Professors of Biology in Canada, explain the science in terms that are easy to understand. The scientists call the fungus an important “nature recycler,” breaking down dead or decaying forest wood. It’s also bioluminescent, meaning that underground, it glows in the dark.
The story of the world’s largest mushroom captured the attention of reporters around the globe and the three-member scientific team found themselves in the center of an international media frenzy. The looming mushroom even became joke fodder for late-night comedians like Johnny
Carson. An imagined image of the giant fungus appears on the side of UHaul rental trucks across the country to this day.
For the city of Crystal Falls and its enterprising residents, the discovery of the headline-making fungus mushroomed into the Humongous Fungus Fest. In recent years, finding the fun in all things fungi have included a parade, a Mr. Fungi Beardy Pageant, a mushroom recipe cookoff, and a 10 by 10-foot mushroom pizza.
“I was thrilled to see the brand new locally made pizza pan paraded down the hill during the 2018 Fungus Fest. Though it can’t happen this year due to pandemic precautions, I look forward to its return next year in a more permanent location. It’s a really great tradition to come together for a slice and celebrate their famous neighbor; plus, it’s delicious!” Warmanen said.
For the documentary, Warmanen interviewed dozens of residents who embrace the fungus and the Fungus Fest as a unique part of their community. Among those who appear in the documentary are Crystal Falls historian Gloria Frederickson, Ben Franklin store owners Jeff and Staria Syrjanen, former mayor Dave Sherby, community organizers Paul Schuytema and Leeann Kirkpatrick, and restaurateurs Chet Fabbri and Kerri Logan.
Over decades, the three scientists have become great friends studying this humongous “individual,” meaning it has the same D.N.A. throughout. Their continuing research has expanded the size and age estimates of the fungus while revealing other questions: “will the Humongous Fungus outlive us all?”
Following the film screening on Saturday, July 31 at 7:00 p.m., Crystal Theatre will host a free reception. Film attendees are welcome to meet documentary participants and enjoy complimentary mushroom-themed appetizers. A cash bar with beer and wine will benefit future programming at Crystal Theatre.
The Humongous Fungus Among Us was written, produced, and edited by Warmanen and directed by Logan Hall. It was shot in 2017–2018 and finished in 2021 with a team led by executive producer Laurie Adrianopoli. The film features original music by Warmanen’s fellow Forest Park classmate Phil Sherby while living in Thailand, sound mixing by Drew Weir at Another Country Studios, original animations by Katrina Zimmerman at Carbon VFX, and color correction by Jeff Altman and Lindsey Mazur at The Mill, all based in Chicago.