"It's a forced near-death experience," says Nick Polizzi about Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink used in the Amazon region to cure everything from depression to cancer. Polizzi the Denver-based director of the Sacred Science, a documentary which takes eight very sick people from the United States and Australia and drops them in the thick of the Amazon to be treated by shamans.
One of the most important medicines used by shamans is Ayahuasca, a brown drink made by brewing two plants -- found hundreds of miles apart but serendipitously joined to create one ridiculous ride. It contains DMT which is a schedule I drug.
The Sacred Science plays at the festival Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and Monday at 8:30 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter. Polizzi will be at the events for a Q&A after each screening. He made frequent trips down to Peru for the film for upwards of two years and in total has gone through the Ayahuasca ceremony six times. Here are this thoughts:
1. The experience lasts for eight hours and takes about twenty minutes to kick in after drinking it. "It feels like your entire body disintegrates.
2. The ceremony happens in a dark room where you sit in a circle with one to three medicine men. The Ayahuasca is drunk from a communal cup while prayers are spoken and smoke blown into the cup.
3. It tastes like a really bitter, turned apricot juice. It's just really difficult to drink. Lots of people gag just drinking it down.
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4. Almost everyone pukes at some point over the ceremony. Polizzi calls it "purging" and it's both psychological and physical.
5. What Ayahuasca does for me -- and this has been reflected in experiences -- your ego gets taken away. Unlike going to a psychologist or therapist, you don't process answers, they just spill out. The real healing is when your brain is taken out of the equation, the only thing that's left is your heart. Healing, according to the medicine men, happens in the heart, not in the head.