Monday, October 19, 2015

Film Review: Ayahuasca Nature's Greatest Gift directed by Seti Gershberg

I had the good fortune to see the feature documentary film Ayahuasca Nature's Greatest Gift, directed by Seti Gershberg. This film is one part of a documentary series, The Path of the Sun, that provides a comprehensive look at this sacred medicine, it's therapeutic value, history, and issues surrounding the plant.

I found this film this captivating, informative, and objective. Especially in this time when sacred medicines are exploding in popularity, it's so vital to know how to proceed with respect for the indigenous wisdom traditions—and how to be safe. This film helps to empower and educate those who are feeling the call of this medicine.

This film explores the many physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of this sacred medicine from the Amazon, and exposes some individuals exploiting a wave of Ayahuasca tourism, sometimes adding dangerous admixtures in order to provoke immediate and dramatic effects, so the tourist can get their money's worth, so to speak. In all realms of human life, it is vital to stay awake. Even sacred medicine can be misused.

This film also brings up one of my favorite topics about sacred plant medicine, exploring the ways that the shamanic use of ayahuasca is changing with the influence of first world interest. According to some scholars, ayahuasca was once was only taken by shamans for guidance, and now it is taken by many who seek personal healing. As awareness and demand for sacred medicine grows, and the medicines are taken by many foreign people, often far away from the indigenous land, the questions arise:

Is it just human beings moving these plants? 

Or is it the plants moving themselves, through human beings? 

As suggested in The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollen, plants have far more holistic intelligence than we generally give them credit for. It's not simply humans manipulating nature. It's nature dancing with humans, too. The earth as a whole ecosystem is connected and communicating with itself in ways that we humans surely cannot completely perceive. It may very well be the plants that are so generously moving themselves through us, in order heal us and help to balance the planet which is in a state of ecological disaster due to human pathologies. This view is a delicate one, for we must remain mindful of issues surrounding sustainability and social impact.

To view this film and others from the series, visit:

There are free movie passes for Ayahuasca Nature's Greatest Gift given away each month. You can sign up here:

From the film's Facebook page:

Ayahuasca Nature's Greatest Gift is a feature length film with a runtime of 1 hour 5 minutes. The film is a comprehensive look at the socio-cultural realities surrounding the burgeoning popularity of the Amazonian sacred, medicinal and hallucinogenic brew called ayahuasca. The film has 30 subtopics that answer questions about the tea including its history, usage, rituals, physical and supernatural experience, shaman, songs, special diet and preparation and thoroughly delves into it's potential therapeutic value in terms of personal healing and integration into western medicinal modalities. Particular emphasis is placed on the healing benefits of ayahuasca as it relates to overcoming fears, phobias, depression, anxiety as well as its successful, but controversial use in treating PTSD, alcoholism and drug addiction. Other topics include the realities of the booming ayahuasca tourism industry and associated dangers of its charlatans and the general dangers found in travel to third world countries to work with shaman in often times remote and hard to get to regions. Myth is stripped from new age illusions through a realistic, educational and explanatory telling of the facts and understandings via the voices of several Peruvian mestizo shaman and experts in the field including Ethnopharmacologist Dr. Dennis McKenna and Dr. Steven Beyer author of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon.

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