Now Playing: Third Estate
Jan Kounen's OTHER WORLDS is not the first and certainly not the last ayahuasca road trip movie, but due to it being made by a 'real' director it is one of the most widely distributed. The story is the usual one--young Western seeker geek is looking for aboriginal remedies to unspecified problems and brings along a camera team as he travels around Amazonia. Made with some decent financing, Kounen's images and sounds are of a higher quality than the backpacker documentaries found on Youtube, which serves the recording of icaros (shaman's spiritual songs) particularly well. There are also some very cool sequences of CGI trip images that instill a psychedelic feel--incidentally these seem to be from the same graphic repository as the long trip scene in Kounen's Renegade (aka Blueberry)*.
Kounen hangs out mostly with the Shipibo-Conibo tribe, who have raised interest with westerners not just because of their ayahuasca tradition, but also because of their beautiful design patterns, which are said to show the universe as perceived on ayahuasca. Several rituals are held and shot with night camera, which accents the spooky feeling. Kounen clearly found a genuine shamanic scene, rather than the phony or black magic vegetalistas often reported on. Images of daily life and non-entheogenic celebrations are shown with no comment, which contributes to the sense of being an outsider in an effective way. The mandatory interviews with Grob, Strassman, Narby, Grof and others are heard and are probably useful to those new to the field. Artists including Amaringo, Alex Grey and Moebius also appear, the latter is a rare and welcome interviewee in this context. Kounen reports on a successful healing after a substantial number of sessions, and the movie ends with beautiful icaros sung over suitable Amazonian images.
Compared to some similar efforts, the Western 'seeker' aspect is relatively downplayed here, which is to the film's advantage. It is still more of a case study than an overall look at ayahuasca, and once again there is too little about DMT and it's unique aspects, whether in the vegetal brew, or taken neat. The movie is made for a French production company and hence mostly in French with English subtitles.
*The 9-minute trip sequence in Kounen's Renegade is rightly famous, but somewhat annoyingly the context blends peyote and ayahuasca ritual elements; two cultures that had zero contact or connection.