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The shamanic/psychedelic experience is often described as being something that can only be comprehended via personal ‘communion’ with entheogenic substances. But for those not willing to kick open the doors of perception, Jan Kounen’s documentary Other Worlds may be the next best thing. Filmed as a companion piece of sorts to his 2004 ‘cowboy-shaman’ feature film Blueberry (also titled Renegade), the film has real impact because it not only shows Kounen’s personal exploration of both physical and mental space, in tracking down shamans of South America to assist him in his quest for understanding, but also uses CGI technology to try and show what the visionary aspect of the shamanic experience is like (the final 5 minute ‘trip’ is brilliantly done).

Mysticism isn’t a practice integrated into our cultures. And yet, I felt its call. I had gone to see the Indians, the shamans, witchdoctors who heal with psychotropic plants. In raising the glass to my lips I had no idea I’d embarked on a journey with no return. It was with respect that I went to meet them; those I imagined capable of facing and transcending fear of death, of exploring their psyches and decoding the mechanics of thought, to discover the invisible world. I crossed Mexico, then Peru, in search of these men. I shared their rituals, until I met Kestenbetsa, Shipibo-Conibo shaman. The rituals I shared with him took me to the frontiers of mental death, to a breaking point where my mind had to accept these experiences, to accept questioning, and redefining reality in a new way.

Another excellent aspect of Other Worlds is that Kounen talks to many experts and researchers in the field, including DMT researcher Rick Strassman, psychedelics researcher Charles Grob, and numerous others including Stan Grof, Jeremy Narby, Alex Grey, Moebius and Pablo Amaringo. For anyone interested in these topics, this is a must watch (although be advised, there are some disturbing scenes for the faint-hearted, such as the killing of a pig, as well as plenty of puking).