Film sheds light on ayahuasca
Documentary tracks growing trend of Peru’s psychdelic brew
Two filmmakers are raising funds online for a documentary, years in the making, about a British Columbia shaman known simply as “Dave.”
Dave spent decades studying a mysterious combination of two psychoactive plants that make up the medicinal brew ayahuasca, used ceremonially by the Shipibo Indigenous people of Peru.
Also known as Ronin Niwe, the unlikely shaman originally hailed from B.C. and still lives here when not practicing at the Espíritu de Anaconda retreat centre.
The film, directed by Todd Harris, has another B.C. connection: its subject offers ayahuasca ceremonies and retreats for renowned Vancouver physician Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, and his patients.
“This film goes to the next level to give (ayahuasca) the light it deserves,” the film’s producer, Christina Gooding, told Metro in a phone interview. “When you look at issues like mental health, addiction, childhood trauma, sexual abuse — things that our society struggles to even talk about, let alone heal — it felt like an incredible opportunity to share this message and help people see there could be a different way.”
Dr. Maté helped Downtown Eastside residents struggling with addiction, trauma and mentalhealth issues find healing using ayahuasca — until the government of prime minister Stephen Harper threatened to strip him of his medical licence if he continued in Canada.
“Dave is no doubt one of the most experienced people in North America,” Dr. Maté said in an interview featured in the documentary. “Few would have had the dedication to be in the jungle as long as Dave did.
“He’s a very experienced Ayahuasquero, and I’ve seen his work deepen immeasurably over the years that I’ve been associated with him.”
Barred from continuing his research and treatments at home, Dr. Maté turned south, embarking on a series of “healing retreats” led by Shaman Dave in the Amazon, “integrating traditional Amazonian ceremonies with his psycho-therapeutic work,” according to the film’s promotional materials.
Gooding became fascinated by ayahuasca’s healing potential after experiencing it herself. Yet she admitted it’s almost impossible to describe with words.
“So much of it is mystical and mysterious in a way that’s inexplicable,” she said. “It can’t be considered a drug — to compare it to any other psychoactive drug does it a disservice.
“I had my doubts about that before I did it, but it’s truly a spiritual connection with the natural world that we’re ultimately a part of .... It allows us to see into ourselves in a way that our ego and minds block us off to.”
The experience, she reported, isn’t easy, and not everyone is “called” to it. People should approach it with caution: Common side-effects include vomiting, nausea and hallucinations — all seen as part of the treatment itself.
“It is an incredibly powerful tool to help yourself,” she said. “It’s not the ayahuasca or the shaman doing it for you.”
At time of publication, the IndieGoGo fundraising campaign had raised nearly $24,000 of its $50,000 goal. The campaign ends Wednesday.
For more information on the documentary The Path of the Shaman or to learn about its fundraising campaign, visit pathoftheshaman.com.
Our society is sick, our society is depressed, and mass parts of the population have huge traumas. ‘Shaman Dave’ (Ronin Niwe)
The subject of the new ayahuasca documentary The Path of the Shaman is a B.C. resident known only as “Dave.”