« Ayahuasca sometimes takes on the appearance of a Sublime Lady. The Big Snake carries the memories of the Earth. If the Lady does not overpower it, it can become lethal… »
This story is re-enacted by the shamans of Amazonia who make use of « Ayahuasca », an hallucinogenic beverage.
The film follows two ayahuasca users in Peru: Flavien has just started experimenting it; Paolo has been trying to get off drugs with an LSD treatment. Their adventure is both physical and psychological. Not all the local healers are commendable. The Amazonian forest hides drug traffickers and snakes in its midst and Ayahuasca, classified as a drug, turns its users into outlaws. Moreover, the use of ayahuasca has something of the nature of a painful quest into oneself: the plant throws the applicants into their own dark selves, where they can get lost. The images shot with an infrared camera (the sessions take place in the dark) show how totally involved they become: distorted faces and limbs, eyes rolled upwards, restless tongue movements…
We will meet several shamans: Jacques Mabit, a doctor who has been living in Amazonia and treating drug-addicts from all over the world for twenty years now… Juan Florès, an Achaninka Indian, who has set up a « school » in the middle of the jungle… Don Solon, an old shaman whose abilities do not prevent him from behaving as an « unworthy old man » for he can’t resist young women… Maestro Cavadeos, a visionary from Iquitos who treats people with a bible in his hand… Augustin Rivas, the healer of rich Westerners… And other not very commendable witch doctors.
Could the exploration of these « modified states of consciousness » through the use of hallucinogenic drugs be a way of treating drug-addiction or even cancers? Scientists will give us their opinion on this matter: Jacques Brosse (a botanist), Paul Chuchaut ( a neurobiologist), Jeremy Narby (an anthropologist), Jean Clottès (a prehistory expert), and Jacques Mabit himself… After these experiments, the viewer will no doubt note not only the potency of such a beverage and its accompanying practices but also of the possible danger it can represent for body and the mind when used unknowingly. For « if the Lady does not overpower the Snake, it can become lethal! »
« Un documentaire bouleversant (…) Il laisse cependant le spectateur libre de se forger une opinion sur cette expérience culturellement métissée, grâce à la distance que maintient le réalisateur avec son sujet. »