An Ayahuasca Documentary

The following, in three parts, is a documentary, originally created for French television, entitled Ayahuasca, the Snake and I, written and directed in 2003 by Armand Bernardi, narrated in English and with English subtitles. The film was produced by ArtLine Films, a well-known production company that coproduces documentaries and feature films with all the major French channels and with international broadcasters.

The film centers on Jacques Mabit and Takiwasi, his Center for the Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Addiction and the Research of Traditional Medicines, located in Tarapoto. Takiwasi claims remarkable success in the treatment of addiction. It describes its treatment method as "innovative, unique in its field. It is characterized by a combination of psychological therapy and conventional medicine with the traditional medicine of the Amazon."

The Takiwasi healing model is described as a tripod — physical detoxification through purgative plants, baths with plants, saunas, massages, physical exercises, and a special diet; psychic detoxification through the opening up of hidden emotions such as sorrows, sadness, family resentments, and inappropriate lifestyle; and family, work, and social reinstatement through a program of furloughs to regain contact with family and especially with outside jobs. The typical stay is nine to twelve months.

Apparently the documentary was to be shown on France 5 television in the spring of 2004, but was withdrawn before being aired, because it was viewed as promoting the use of dimethyltryptamine, which was banned in France as a narcotic substance.

Bernardi discusses the film on his blog, and an extended and highly critical discussion by a French Catholic priest is here. You can purchase the film on DVD. It is probably worth noting that, on May 3, 2005, the French Director General for Health promulgated an order amending the list of substances classified as narcotics to include not only DMT but also, specifically, Banisteriopsis caapi, Psychotria viridis, Diplopterys cabrerana, as well as harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmaline — in other words, just about every possible ingredient of the ayahuasca drink.


  1. This is extremely frustrating, but not confusing or surprising. I would expect nothing less from our western capitalistic/individualistic culture. Imagine how dangerous a healthy, happy, empowered, spiritually connected, empathic population would be. People actually recognizing and appreciating the brother/sisterhood we are all a part of. I think it is in the interest of this system that exists for its own sake to keep substances from people which can potentiality shed light on their true natures. If humanity were allowed these transformative experiences en masse, the walls might well come tumbling down.

  2. I agree with you that laws regarding the sacred plants should be changed. Yet I must confess that, in the Upper Amazon, where ayahuasca is widely consumed, I have not seen that people are discernibly more healthy, happy, empowered, spiritually connected, or empathic than they are elsewhere, such as in Chicago. Until recently — and still ongoing in some places — Amazonian peoples engaged in constant small-scale warfare with each other, often murderous and cruel, including headhunting, especially among the ayahuasca-drinking Shuar and their neighbors. [Sigh] We have much to learn from ayahuasca, especially on an individual level, but I have personally seen little evidence that it produces social peace and harmony. If there is any work out there on this subject, I would really like to see it.