The notion of consuming Ayahuasca, the plant at the core of The Medicine, has always enticed me. My fear has so far outweighed the magical elixir’s allure. I’m not sure I’m ready to directly face the demons I’ve repressed into the darkest recesses of my mind. Yet I keep thinking about it, as society becomes more and more suffocating, fractured and disassembled, as things become clearer while making less and less sense, as time races faster and faster, as I get older. Perhaps, sometime in the future, I’ll gather the courage to shed my inhibitions and turn to the wisdom of the shamans.
Farzin Toussi’s documentary follows two Americans on their Ayahuasca journey. Through their eyes, the film offers curious folks like me a glimpse of what to expect. It’s also an incisive look into the history of the plant – actually, a combination of two plants – as well as its spiritual, medicinal, and psychological effects. Perhaps most compellingly, it’s a reminder to open our eyes, to notice the bigger world around us for what it is, to see who we really are. Toussi never preaches, gently luring you into an utterly tranquil state, wherein you may just find yourself booking a ticket to Colombia.
“…follows two Americans on their Ayahuasca journey.”
The driving force here, both of The Medicine and the people he trains and advises through séances, is Taita Juanito Guillermo Chindoy Chindoy, the spiritual guide to a very special village. “Two hours outside of Bogota,” Stuart Townsend narrates, “an ancient culture continues to practice the ancient teachings of their ancestors.” Chindoy spearheads these teachings; he’s the real deal, coming from a storied line of shamans (at the filming of the doc, his grandfather was 109 years young). “The earth is making a claim against man,” he states, seemingly one with nature. Like a forest spirit, he floats around, imparting tidbits of wisdom, relishing the taste of bitter peppers, and sending folks on their paths to enlightenment. As a cinematic subject, he’s tremendously compelling.
Our two hapless heroes, unfortunately, are less so. By no fault of their own, mind you – anyone would be hard-pressed to match the enigmatic/charismatic screen presence of Taita Juanito. Still, former NFL Safety Kerry Rhodes, and actress/ activist AnnaLynne McCord, as earnest and well-ambitioned as they are, somehow derail the documentary into reality-TV territory. Toussi would have been better off following two “ordinary” people, as opposed to privileged celebs, if relatability was one of the goals.
"…a reminder to open our eyes, and notice the bigger world around us..."