Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ibogaine? In I'M DANGEROUS WITH LOVE Negroponte unveils its delights and frights

Boy, oh, boy: the stuff that's out there that most Americans will never even hear about! Ah, but thanks to the likes of First Run Features (the company that seems to be handing us a new documentary at least twice monthly), we've got the opportunity to find out. The distributor's latest (FRF's handling the DVD release, due in April; the filmmaker himself is distributing theatrically) is I'M DANGEROUS WITH LOVE from Michel Negroponte (Jupiter's Wife, Methandonia), which opens tomorrow. Another new FRF documen-tary, Plastic Planet (I'll have more on this one later in the week) makes its debut Friday. And just last week the company gave us the wonderful film about that 60s/70s activist/musician Phil Ochs.

During the 85 relatively speedy minutes of Dangerous/Love, Negroponte, pictured at right, introduces us to Dimitri Mugianis. This fine fellow, back in the 1980s, was front man for the band called Leisure Class (he's shown below in his earlier heyday) and as he sang and rocked, he also became increa-singly addicted to drugs and alcohol. Until fairly recently, that is, when he tried the experi-mental (illegal, of course, here in the U.S.) hallucinogen Ibogaine, derived from Africa's Iboga plant-- and promptly kicked his habit.

We follow Mugianis -- now a proselytizer for Ibogaine, as well a man willing to lead addicts through a kind of detoxification using the substance -- as he travels from a detox here in NYC to others (one in Mexico, and another humdinger of a dual detox involving two brothers from the south who now live in Canada).

Then we're off to Africa, where we meet a Bwiti shaman who helps Dimitri through an Iboga "initiation." If this last section of the film is not as enthralling as the first two thirds, chalk this up either to a little too much Carlo Castenda-style hooey, or maybe to TrustMovies' general aversion to all things religious, from the Catholic Church to Orthodox Jews, fervent Muslims, and psychedelically-inclined shamans. Somehow they all begin to reek of a tad too much fundamentalism and proselytizing.

As a filmmaker, Negroponte puts us in the midst of what is happening, and we're glued to it. Occasionally, he gets especially creative (above) and takes us into a moment or two of Dimitri's former trips. But why not, since drugs of so many kinds tend to provide hallucinogenic experiences? In Dimitri, he's found himself an amazing subject -- one who now puts all that energy from rock and roll into saving others from their own worst instincts. Just how does Ibogaine stack up, detox-wise?  One fellow, Eddie, tells us that it's like an "interrupter. It'll get you through the withdrawal, but then you have to have a plan: AA. Something."  The director himself gives it a try and says it's like having a new set of taste buds: he no longer urge to put nicotine gum -- which he's been chewing for 30 years -- into his mouth.

But Ibogaine's effect can wear off, as we see with "Tink," the one woman in the group who detoxes in front of us but, we learn later, returns to drug use. The result can be temporary, and even Negroponte admits at the end of the movie that he's gone back on that nicotine gum. Still there's something here, as medical science, even here in our own country (forward-looking scientifically but backward morally and socially), is discovering. Check out, for instance, the website of Dr. Stanley Glick, Ph.D., M.D., of Albany Medical College, a link given me by the filmmaker.

After speaking with Negroponte briefly (that's he again, above, with his Gabon "assistant" at left, and Dimitri lounging at right), I discovered that many more Americans than I suspected may already know about Ibogaine, due to a cover article some weeks back in the Village Voice (and probably in another dozen city newspapers, thanks to the V V's owners now manning so many of these weeklies around the country). In any case, for film-goers interested in furthering their knowledge and growth, I think the movie is more than worthwhile. For anyone struggling with (or who is close to anyone struggling with) addiction, it's a must.

I'm Dangerous With Love opens tomorrow, Wednesday, January 12, in New York City at the IFC Center (click here for dates and showtimes). It'll be out eventually on DVD from FRF.

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