Writer/Director Rak Razam and Co-Director/Cinematographer/Editor Timothy Parish have succeeded in giving a very true and exciting portrait of the Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca in their excellent documentary Aya: Awakenings.
I didn’t know if it would be possible to give an accurate feeling for the ayahuasca experience on film, but Razam and Parish have done it. Better yet, their portrait is honest, in keeping with the true spirit of the plant’s usage, which has, too often, been sensationalized by those seeking it only for a psychedelic high.
What the filmmakers bring out, which was most astonishing to me, when I went on my own expeditions to Peru, is that the revival of the plant’s usage has been brought about due to the interest of Westerners. The sad reality of the Amazon peoples is that they were pulled from many different areas by force to work in the 19th and 20th century rubber plantations. As a result, the subsequent generations of these peoples had, for the most part, lost their cultural identities. What’s more, indigenous shamans were not, usually, local and one had to await a traveling shaman or go, sometimes, as much as a hundred miles to find one. And, unfortunately, many took advantage of the native people. As a result, they fell out of favor and they and their medicines became distrusted until the presence of Westerners and their interest seemed, now, to put a stamp of approval on them.
The film concentrates primarily on the initial level of the ayahuasca experience, that of “cleansing,” and only touches on the second level of “healing” before turning to a segment on the DMT experience. I wished that, instead of this segment, it would have delved into the subsequent levels of the plant experience, the raising of the users “vibratory level” and, finally, “connection” to all. But, perhaps, those are levels the filmmakers have yet to experience and we can hope for a sequel.
Nonetheless, this film is a very valuable piece of learning on the subject and gets across the fact that the true experience has as much to do with the shaman one works with as with the medicine itself. What’s more, it is, ultimately, a spiritual experience. This fact is most often lost on “naturalists” such as the wag in the discussion group following the film, who didn’t understand the difference between a drug and a medicine.
If the subject is of interest to you, I urge you to see it.
I give Aya: Awakenings a 4 out of 5.