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“Look Into My Eyes” Peers Into the Lives of New York City Psychics

PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 22: (L–R) Eugene Grygo, Phoebe Hoffman, Lana Wilson, Michael Kim, and Nikenya Hall attend the 2024 Sundance Film Festival “Look Into My Eyes” premiere at the Egyptian Theatre on January 22, 2024, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

By Lucy Spicer

“I suddenly got very nervous because I was just thinking about how much I adore this filmmaker,” says Sundance Film Festival director of programming Kim Yutani before the premiere of Look Into My Eyes on January 22 at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. The adored filmmaker is Lana Wilson, who had previously brought documentary projects After Tiller, Miss Americana, and Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields to the Sundance Film Festival. This year, the Premieres section of the Festival is screening Wilson’s new documentary about New York City psychics. 

If you’re looking for a sensationalist film that attempts to prove or disprove the authenticity of the psychics’ practice, this isn’t it. 

“I’ve worked on this film for seven years, and, in many ways, it’s about sharing grief and processing it with others, even if those others are strangers,” says Wilson at the film’s post-premiere Q&A. 

The director’s inspiration for the project struck the morning after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “I just saw a sign that said, ‘$5 Psychic Reading’ and without even thinking, I walked in, having never been to a psychic before,” she recalls. “I pull back this curtain, there was a table and two chairs. I sat down. No one was there, but I immediately felt incredibly emotional, like I was looking into a mirror at my own desperate state at that moment, and it felt incredibly clarifying.”

The psychic eventually showed up, and though Wilson doesn’t remember the contents of her reading, she knows she felt better afterward. Then the two got to chatting. 

“She said, ‘Yeah, you know, you would not believe the situations people come in here with. They come in at real crossroads in their lives, when they have nowhere else to turn.’ And that was a kind of lightbulb moment for me,” says Wilson. “I realized I thought of psychics in a more trivial way, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be extraordinary to make this the setting for a film, where we get to see this wash of humanity come through these doors and hear the questions they’re asking and see what they’re talking about?’”

Wilson and her team vetted some 150 psychics across New York City before settling on the handful of individuals who appear in the film. Look Into My Eyes observes intimate readings between the psychics and their clients, but the film also gets to know the psychics themselves. They take us into their homes, where we learn about their families, passions, and experiences that have shaped their lives and prompted them to offer psychic services.

And this approach feels novel. After all, clients go to psychics to hear about themselves or to connect with a loved one who has passed away. But how often do psychics get asked about their own lives and feelings?

The film’s emphasis on human connection makes a lot of sense once you realize it was made while many were isolating themselves amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilson says she felt particularly drawn to psychics with whom she felt connected based on a shared appreciation for music, film, and art.

The result is a film that lives at the intersection of loneliness, art, and a search for meaning. “The way I see it is that psychic readings are not unlike any religious belief system in that they give us a way to understand and make sense of the world,” says Wilson. “Art and movies do the same thing.”

To see more from the 2024 Festival, click here.