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For centuries, South American tribes have been reaping the potential benefits of Ayahuasca’s transformative effects, and over the past couple of decades, the indigenous ancestral medicine has begun taking the entire world by storm. People from all over the globe feel an increased calling to attend an Ayahuasca retreat, and Amazonian shamanism is opening more and more eyes to alternative healing modalities.
The Ayahuasca experience is no longer an anomaly and ceremonial retreats are springing up from Costa Rica to Los Angeles, offering people the chance to connect to themselves and mother nature in a more profound way. While academic mental health research has begun to take notice, experienced leading scholars and psychonauts have long seen this shift in sentiment coming.
Many of those who experienced these seeming “miracle cures”, feel a strong desire to spread the word and share their stories with others. And over the years, numerous books, YouTube documentaries, and tv shows have featured the potential benefits sacred plants, such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro, and Iboga have to offer.
Below we have listed the top 10 Ayahuasca documentary films ever made. While this list could have been even longer, these 10 series and films were picked as they all use a unique approach. Some focus more on the scientific aspects, whereas others offer an in-depth overview of Ayahuasca’s history and traditions. They range from emotional and profound to light-hearted and funny, and they will either instil in you new insights, thoughts, and feelings or help bring old ones to the surface.
In this 52-minute documentary, filmmaker Richard Meech sets out to explore the mysteries of Ayahuasca shamanism by following key protagonists on their quest for spiritual awakening and healing.
As Ayahuasca’s usage is continuously expanding far beyond the Amazon, this will naturally have an effect on the future of Western medicine and ecological consciousness. But is Ayahuasca truly a doorway to direct knowledge of the divine? Or is it perhaps a path that leads to psychological trauma? And can it cure modern drug addictions? Or is Ayahuasca itself a possible substance of abuse? These are the hard, but important questions that ‘Vine of the Soul’ taps into.
The documentary was shot on location at the Espiritu de Anaconda Ayahuasca healing center in Iquitos, Peru. Under the guidance of well-established indigenous shamans and Western curanderos, the protagonists embark on a transformative journey that offers them new insights into the nature of spirituality and self-healing.
‘Vine of the Soul’ offers viewers a compassionate yet objective and realistic depiction of what this sacred psychedelic medicine can induce. We not only witness blissful life-altering epiphanies, but also a more challenging night that requires a great amount of post-ceremonial integration.
The documentary also features in-depth interviews with ethnobotanist Dennis McKenna, addiction expert Dr. Gabor Maté, and scholar Kenneth Tupper.
This 94-minute documentary serves as an introduction and celebration of Ayahuasca’s healing properties. There is a big focus on Indigenous people’s cultural wisdom and the filmmakers show how opening ourselves up to more alternative healing modalities can provide necessary insights into the nature of illness and addiction.
The documentary covers the story of a Canadian family-man, named Dave. Driven by a strong desire to heal from his depression, he travels to Peru in search of a transformative Ayahuasca journey, and he is eventually taught how to work with the medicinal plant in a ceremonial way by a Shipibo Master.
Dave has dedicated himself to working with Ayahuasca to address depression, illness, and addiction, and in addition to his story, the film's narrative unfolds through the gripping accounts of three courageous women: Shannan, Lisa, and Libby. By listening to their stories, we are given a deeper understanding of the individual and societal struggles that many of us (perhaps unknowingly) share.
As in ‘Vine of the Soul’, this documentary also features addict expert, Dr. Gabor Maté. He aids the women in integrating the insights they were granted, and, through the help of talk therapy, they discover how their experiences relate to their daily lives.
‘From Shock to Awe’ shares the compelling story of two combat veterans suffering from severe mental health issues due to their experiences in the war. After traditional Western medicine offers them no relief, the men begin exploring more alternative medicine and they eventually seek healing at Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth in Orlando, Florida.
By following the men during their ceremonies and subsequent integration, the film brings awareness about Ayahuasca’s potential benefits for combat vets suffering from PTSD. We also get to see what effect these life-altering changes have had on the veterans’ families and how they inspired the men’s wives to embark on their own soul quest journeys with mother Ayahuasca.
Watch the documentary here.
This 52-minute ayahuasca documentary follows Aubrey Marcus and other spiritual seekers through a transformative Ayahuasca ceremony at SpiritQuest Sanctuary in Peru. The film is directed by Mitch Schultz and it provides an introduction to what Ayahuasca is, and what a ceremony can be like.
Under the guidance of Don Howard Lawler, the participants embark on an Ayahuasca journey at SpiritQuest Sanctuary to deal with grief, low self-worth, childhood trauma, and other ailments. The moments they share are deeply vulnerable and to highlight the healing properties and healing effects, each person is interviewed in a candid manner before and after the ceremonies.
Aubrey Marcus first began speaking about Ayahuasca on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2011. Since then, he has hosted numerous Aubrey Marcus podcasts in which he talks about Ayahuasca’s healing effects with others, including Layla Martin, Kyle Kingsbury, Erick Godsey, Tim Ferriss, and Duncan Trussell. Besides their Aubrey Marcus ayahuasca documentary, Aubrey and Mitch have also explored medicinal plant and other plant medicine together, such as the San Pedro cactus in their film, Huachuma.
Watch it here.
Léa & I follows the journey of Léa Moret and Camille Shooshani: two best friends who travel to South America in search of alternative forms of healing. More specifically, the two young women are seeking a ‘cure’ for Léa’s suffering from the chronic illness, cystic fibrosis. They hope to find a way to extend her life expectancy, which is roughly estimated to be 37 years of age. Disappointed with traditional Western medicine’s focus on merely removing or diminishing painful sensations, they decide to look further and delve deeper in an attempt to heal from within.
The 84-minutes documentary is shot in a raw cinematographic style. And it takes you along on a high-stakes, emotionally heavy quest for unconventional, holistic treatments. Several healing modalities are discussed and tried, including biomagnetism and the Peyote cactus, but the Ayahuasca ceremony is the main point of the film.
The documentary serves as a moving reminder that, ultimately, life is about the journey, and that true healing is often not about how to beat death, and more about how to fully live life.
‘The Medicine’ sets out to try and uncover Ayahuasca’s hidden mysteries, and it delves into both the science and the lore behind the potent plant medicine.
We follow actor, AnnaLynne McCord, and former NFL player, Kerry Rhodes, who sit in their first Ayahuasca ceremony. As they drink the potent brew, the documentary takes us along on their journeys, and we are subsequently granted access to their innermost thoughts, revelations, and fears.
Spiritual leader, Taita Juanito, guides the ceremonies and gives viewers an in-depth overview of Ayahuasca’s history and the important place this sacred brew holds in native cultures of South America.
The documentary also includes several enlightening interviews with expert researchers, such as Rachel Harris, Graham Hancock, Jordi Riba, and Mauricio Diazgranados.
‘Unwell’ explores what “getting well” really means and whether the tools and methods we have at our disposal are really doing what we believe (or hope) they do.
Wellness has become a lucrative multi-billion dollar industry and the expansive list of modalities that are said to bring healing properties to humanity keeps growing. However, with increasingly more tools at our disposal, there is also a higher chance of falling victim to false, empty promises.
In this docuseries, the six specific wellness trends that are delved into, are: essential oils, tantric sex, the consumption of human breast milk, extreme fasting and intermittent fasting, Ayahuasca, and bee venom therapy.
Some of these modalities are clearly rather new, such as consuming breast milk for muscle growth or ingesting bee venom (aka bee sting therapy) to cure the (somewhat controversial) chronic Lyme disease, whereas others, like Ayahuasca ceremonies, tantra, and aromatherapy (essential oils), have been around for many centuries and are simply recently gaining more widespread attention on a global scale.
The episode on Ayahuasca explores the many different sides of the usage and increasing popularity of this sacred medicine. It highlights the real promise of psychoactive substances on conditions such as PTSD and clinical depression through gripping personal tales, while also tracing the impact of Ayahuasca’s burgeoning tourism industry on indigenous communities and sharing some cautionary tales.
Watch the trailer here.
In this travel series, actor Zac Efron journeys around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien in search of healthy, green, and sustainable ways of living. They aim to find new ways to solve old problems. And in the eighth episode, “Iquitos”, the two men explore Peru’s blooming Ayahuasca tourism by paying a visit to the Ayahuasca Foundation in Mishana, Peru.
‘Down to Earth’ is shot in a similar style to Netflix’s four-part ‘Chelsea Does’ series from 2016 in which Chelsea Handler sets out to face personal and cultural hang-ups in an attempt to learn more about herself and the world. In the series, Chelsea explores four touchy topics that fascinate her, and in the fourth episode, she travels to Peru to try Ayahuasca.
Interesting to know: Another beautiful documentary that goes by the same name (Down to Earth) is also worthy of watching. The film serves as both a wake-up call and a resurgence of hope, and it revolves around a family of five who travels the world searching for a new perspective on life. During their five-year journey, they meet one-to-one with the ‘Earth Keepers’, inviting us to see the world through the eyes of these wise individuals.
Watch the trailer here.
‘Have a Good Trip’ offers a light-hearted exploration of psychedelics. Numerous celebrities, such as Anthony Bourdain, Carrie Fisher, Sting, Ben Stiller, and A$AP Rocky, openly share their personal psychedelic experiences, which range from the profound to the absurd.
The film was written by comedy writer Donick Cary and filmed over a period of eleven years. And while it doesn’t go into much depth on the scientific or spiritual side of entheogens, hearing these celebrities talk so candidly about their hallucinatory anecdotes, is highly refreshing.
Watch the trailer here.
This 77-minute documentary was directed by Raz Degan and it revolves around a young man named James Freeman and his quest for salvation. After traditional medicine has failed him, he travels to the Peruvian Amazon to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony. Over the course of 10 months, he ventures from shaman to shaman, before eventually partaking in a life-altering experience.
While the documentary has had a mixed reception, James’s year-long search for answers and redemption provides a unique perspective, and his last-ditch effort to heal from his depression and prevent him from ending his life feels incredibly personal.
After a deeply introspective Ayahuasca journey coupled together with a months-long isolation, James emerges from it all with a newfound feeling of ease. Now, these profound insights must be weaved and integrated into his everyday life.
Watch the documentary here.
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