Ordalies – The tribunal of the invisible


In Brazzaville, the customary court of Tenrikyo is an institution responsible for resolving witchcraft cases. Aided by psychic investigators, a team of judges strives to unmask the wizards and reconcile the families torn apart by accusations of black magic.

Cases follow one another and, between metaphysical verdicts and healing rituals, the vigilantes try to enforce their authority to prevent certain hearings from turning into a general fight.

One morning, Achille, a man in his forties, comes to lodge a complaint for “theft of an aquatic entity”: he is convinced that the mermaid-woman with whom he is madly in love, Raïssa, has been stolen. both to live under water and to take on the appearance of a human woman on earth. Stunned by this strange story, the judges seize the case to try to solve it.

Note of intent from Hadrien La Vapeur and Corto Vaclav, directors

When we first arrived in the Congo, we were struck by how much enchantment and magic permeated all spheres of society. From neglected women resorting to love potions to football teams boosted by spells, to the highest levels of politics: the whole country seems to be throbbing between a visible world and an invisible one.

This omnipresence of the marvelous captivated us, no doubt because with us in Europe it has long been forgotten. But also because as filmmakers it was an almost impossible challenge: how to film the invisible?

From the start of our cinematographic research, we were fascinated by the figure of the sorcerer, a veritable “criminal of the invisible”, whom everyone talks about but whom we never see.

It is by continuing to follow the main character of our previous film, Congo, that we discovered the court of Tenrikyo and its unique way of approaching the problems of witchcraft. We were immediately fascinated by the skill of the judges, their malice and their wisdom in unraveling complex problems, between metaphysical accusations, defamation or real black magic, and in the end reconciling the clans which are torn apart.

The surreal power of such a tribunal, the time travel in reference to the witchcraft trials that our ancestors had experienced during the Inquisition, the almost scientific protocol for irrational accusations, all elements that influenced our documentary gesture during this journey to the heart of the tribunal of the invisible.

Like the mission of these judges, we wanted to escape the binarity of certain questions: does witchcraft exist? Or does it represent a vast collective delirium as most often evoked in Western thought? We have rather sought the middle way by filming the audiences, thus allowing the viewer to question his own relationship to belief.

unpopular neighborhood


France 2 is proud to offer for a fifth season the documentary space: “25 shades of doc”! This meeting offers unique films, French, European or elsewhere, new films or great classics. Its ambition is to highlight documentary cinema, with singular and strong works, to show a world full of nuances.

The documentary is available for viewing on

and in replay for 120 days on

We wish to thank the writer of this short article for this awesome content

Ordalies – The tribunal of the invisible

You can find our social media accounts as well as other pages that are related to them.https://nimblespirit.com/related-pages/