Cognition Factor - the Smart Movie interview with Mike Kawitzky

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written and directed by Mike Kawitzky, who answers some questions with Undergrowth at the bottom of this article. Photo by Louise Goddard.

The plot takes place in a stream of consciousness as a cyberpunk quests for enlightenment in the digital age.

The viewer is transported to a narrated virtual world in search of answers to the " Big Five" questions. It's a totally human experience as Cognition Factor stitches live conversations with Terence Mckenna, brother Dennis Mckenna, along with Ralph Abrahams, Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Metzner, Alex Grey, and twenty more of the top thinkers of our times.

The Cognition Factor is a narrated gonzo documentary, showcast inside a 3D landscape backed by original compositions from top musicians like Dr. Lx Paterson, Dom Beken and Phil Le Gonedic, of The ORB, Merv Pepler (EatStatic/Ozrik Tentacles), Colin Angus& Matt Catt (The Shamen/Pablo_Sandoz), Steve Hillage (System 7), all brought together by ambient composer, performer and originator, Mike Martin (Indidginus).

The Cognition Factor poses Five Big Questions in order of appearance:

   1. What is consciousness/cognition?
   2.  Are we evolving as a species, or are we going extinct?
   3. What do you understand as G-D?
   4. Can the fusion of science and technology occur?
   5. What happens when we die?

"What we're going to do is we're going to all wire ourselves together, linking ourselves together at higher and higher bandwidth, with greater and greater understanding"

– Terence Mckenna - the Cognition Factor

for more info and to buy the DVD visit:


Interview with Mike Kawitzky

UG:  Mike,  Cognition Factor is such a hyper-dense download, what led you to some of the ideas behind the movie, and why then did you want to make this doco?
MK:    Firstly, thanks for asking me to comment. When i started making Cognition Factor in 2003 it seemed like everything I was seeing on TV was two thirds padding. I couldn't stay focused through doccos like 'What The Bleep' or 'Secret', because they were too long and eventually became boring. But I credit those shows with opening up conscious cinema to a mass audience. Then I saw a three minute short on the Sci-Fi channel called 'The Singularity'. It wasn't boring and I immediately wanted to make a full-length movie like that. I had no script and no interviews except Terence at that time. I got in touch with Dennis Mckenna, and that's when it all started. 
UG:   Terence McKenna is one of the key figures in the doco... how did you meet him and what do you think he has to offer today in the 21st c?
MK:  I heard him on the Shamen's Boss Drum album back in '94 and thought it might be fun to get in touch. I wasn't wrong. He came to South Africa to do a gig at Rustlers Valley in '96. We'd been in touch for a few years at that stage so I was like his 'best friend' in Africa. I was writing a column for Intelligence Magazine at the time and convinced my editor to sponsor a road trip to Rustlers, about a 12 hour drive from Cape Town, where I live. We spent eight days in the Maluti Mountains together. I saw him again in 1999 when I visited with him at his spot on Hawaii during The AllChemical Conference in Kona Hawaii which took place at the same time. I spent two weeks on the island hanging out. Terence had a way with words and a knack of being able to pull an audience that's sadly lacking in todays dumbed-down world. His ideas are still outrageous to the mainstream plot, but even though he has passed on he is still instrumental in many people questioning their values, and this in itself is a good thing in the 21st Century, or any other century..
UG:  In fact you call CF a "smart movie for a smart audience"... Could you explain what you mean there? Is it for a general release, or does the audience need to be switched on to these ideas to be able to understand them?
MK:  It's for general release because everyone should have the oppurtunity to be switched on to the questions asked in the movie. It's a smart movie because you can't watch it without a brain.
UG:   What effect do you think the dense narrative has on an audience? You've previously said CF is designed to "crash test your brain" It can be hard work – whats the best way for the audience to approach it?
MK:  Having watched a number of audiences from the back row, I noticed that no-one eats popcorn or blows their noses. A mainstream German film maker who saw Cognition Factor at the studio lost his cool and yelled at me; "Why didn't you interview the Pope, or a suicide bomber?". For some reason I find these facts encouraging but the narrative, soundscapes and visuals are designed for an audience to 'sink in' to scenarios surrounding the questions, and that's why 'dropping out of gear' during the movie is a common occurence because Cognition Factor needs to be seen more than once. In fact, it's better the second time you see it. Good value if you buy it. The best way for someone to watch it is to come to the show with a willingness to explore, a willingness to go beyond the current paradigm of what constitutes a movie, because this isn't a movie in the 'normal' sense, it's 'conscious cinema' and may take the viewer somewhere they haven't been before, if they're open to it.
UG:  Does watching CF raise your consciousness?
MK:  Rak, you quote French filmaker Jan Kounen in your book; AYA: A Shamanic Odyssey:
"Cinema is a great tool to deal with modified states of consciousness and different perceptions, [just as] shamanism, or meditation, or other ways, help us to understand how the creatures that we are work"
I think Kounen answered the question for me, but like all great mysteries, I can't be sure.
Thanks for viewing the show!
Mike Kawitzky
1st July 2009