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URBAN ORISHAS, poetic cine-essay, 2022

Urban Yemanjá by Luz Castañeda | Poster by Talgat Medetov

URBAN ORISHAS is a poetic cine-essay that introduces artist, scientist and spiritual medium of Templo Guaracy of Umbanda Luz Castañeda. Castañeda’s series of paintings called Urban Orishas (forces of nature, orixás in Portuguese) maps the traditional African nature-based spirits to various places in New York City. The documentary also peeks into the mysterious world of Umbanda ceremonies. Finally, the narrative will take us into the artist’s studio to observe her creative process.

ORIXÁS URBANOS é um filme-ensaio poético que apresenta a artista, cientista e médium espiritual do Templo Guaracy de Umbanda Luz Castañeda. A série de pintura de Castaneda chamada Orixás Urbanos (forças da natureza) mostra a relação dessas forças, baseadas nas tradições Africanas, com diferentes lugares da cidade de Nova York. O documentário também passeia pelo misterioso mundo das cerimonias da Umbanda. Por fim, a narrativa nos levará ao ateliê da artista onde observamos seu processo criativo.

Luz Castañeda’s artwork is a combination of her artistic soul and her scientific mind with a free spirit intertwining the two

Elisa Pritzker, La Voz
Urban Elegbara by Luz Castañeda

The film director Alex Minkin is a Brooklyn-based anthropologist and cultural activist, focusing his research on the intersections between Jewish and Brazilian cultures. He presents the stories of Brazilian spiritual practitioners in a format that reflects the mystery of these experiences and their groundedness in history and myth. Alex is the founder of Ticún Brasil, which offers volunteer opportunities for travelers to Brazil, as well as cultural activities in New York.

the Orisha tour of NYC

Kyla Mathis-Angress, filmmaker

There is only one negative aspect in relation to “Urban Orishas”. It is too short. This ten-minute documentary should be at least one hour long. The way it mixes religion, life in the cities, images and music leaves us smiling at the screen and waiting for more..I had this “aha” moment – of course they belong together! Orishas in New York.

Andrea Kogan, Sounds and Colours

The Orixás walk the streets of New York.

Luz Castaneda illuminates the narrow path that modern life forces us to follow. The path marked by the loss of rituals, by the destruction of the forest and nature, by the absence of time for contemplation. Alex Minkin’ documentary was able to capture the artist’s light with images that reaffirm the search for the sacred.

The revealing gaze of the occult is what art, in its most elaborate practice, brings us, through the work of Luz Castaneda and Alex Minkin, who is also an artist-scientist, a scholar of the anthropology of religion and the connections between Judaism and other cultures. The artists captured the magic of the sacred permanence in the concrete jungle, the smell of earth present in the asphalt, the sound of waters on Fifth Avenue.

Decio Zylbersztajn, writer, USP

well explained, super project

Vincent Moon, filmmaker

it’s there being layered in front of you, like lasagna on a cooking show — the theology, the art, the city, the dancing, the nature

Quinn Zannoni, biking teacher
Luz Castañeda in Urban Orishas
Film Trailer
Professor Reginaldo Prandi, author of Orishas Mythology in Urban Orishas
Umbanda ceremony in Urban Orishas
Luz Castañeda in Urban Orishas
Umbanda ceremony in Urban Orishas
Luz Castañeda in Urban Orishas


9.5 minutes, digital

Dedicated to Sérgio Ferretti (1937-2018)

One of the icons of Brazilian anthropology, Professor Sergio Figueiredo Ferretti studied religions of African origin and manifestations of popular culture in Brazil, training several generations of researchers for 50 years. Ferretti chose to focus on discriminated minorities, communities subjected to religious intolerance, and groups often rendered invisible to the rest of society. Ferretti was completely devoted to his work. In the words of British anthropologist Peter Fry, he was ‘someone with his head and heart in the same place.’

Mundicarmo and Sergio Ferretti at their home in 2017 | photo by Alex Minkin

A film by Alex Minkin

Luz Castañeda |

Reginaldo Prandi filmed by Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon

Chill Waving and Sam Thompson

Filmed by Tay Nascimento for Ticún Brasil at Mãe Elzita ‘Terreiro Fé em Deus’, Sao Luiz, MA, 2017

From Steel Roots, State of the Arts, 2012
Producer Eric Schultz

Ligiana Costa – Onda, Tratore, 2009

José Siqueira – Oração aos Deuses – Introdução, Melodia, 1975

José Siqueira – Orixá – Introdução, Melodia, 1975

João Tavares

Kieran Dick, Charlie Hoxie, Claudia Almazo, Alexandra Martin Kane, Carol Desoti, Leandro Langoni Dias, Talgat Medetov, Pinya Minkin and BRIC Documentary Intensive Cohort

Alex Minkin’s documentary, Urban Orishas is a visual spectacle of Brazilian culture. We observe Luz Castañeda walking, feeling and experiencing the energy and the force of the beginning of the cosmic whole; the Orishas that cohabit in harmony with us, with nature and the New York buildings. The artist relates that the Orishas can be found anywhere, “you just have to know how to see them”. Like the religious universe, Luz’s paintings are nailed to the city; we perceive the link between the sacred and the profane.

Profesor Elsa Brugal, University of Havana, Cuba

Ticún Brasil, 2022

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