AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Don Simpson | November 2, 2010
Director: Mitch Schultz
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is an endogenous psychoactive compound which exists in humans, as well as numerous species of animals and plants. The natural function of DMT, a naturally occurring hallucinogenic drug of the tryptamine family, in the human body remains unknown.
DMT (considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of the United States) can produce intense visuals, euphoria and hallucinations but the human body metabolizes DMT too rapidly for oral administration to be effective, unless of course it is combined with a MAOI. (The traditional South American ayahuasca is a tea mixture containing DMT with a MAOI — most commonly comprised of the leaves of Psychotria viridis [the source of DMT] and the vine Banisteriopsis caapi [the source of MAOI]. How the natives managed to find this combination without the benefits of modern chemistry is a complete mystery.) If smoked or injected DMT can produce powerful hallucinations and entheogenic activity but only for a brief period of time (less than half an hour).
The Spirit Molecule specifically studies Dr. Rick Strassman’s government-sanctioned human DMT research at the University of New Mexico in the 1990s, documenting its many trials, tribulations, and inconceivable discoveries. Dr. Strassman — a medical doctor specialized in psychiatry with a fellowship in clinical psychopharmacology research — has dubbed DMT the “god molecule” or “spirit molecule.” Dr. Strassman administered multiple doses of DMT to 60 human volunteers and interviewed them during and after their experiences.
A variety of experts from a menagerie of different disciplines provide their opinions on and experiences with DMT. Approaching DMT from the historically diametrically opposed perspectives of science and spirituality, The Spirit Molecule explores the connections between neuroscience, quantum physics, and spirituality. The talking head interviews offer a well-rounded collection of raw data, theories and philosophies to help the viewer better understand the nature of the DMT experience. The Spirit Molecule offers a plethora of theories that might truly alter one’s perception of human consciousness and its role in the universe. Austin filmmaker Mitch Schultz’s documentary, however, does have an agenda — The Spirit Molecule is an exploration solely about the positive possibilities of DMT (and a plea for more research to be conducted) and avoids any discussion from people who are opposed to its research or use (or any mention of any dangers associated with DMT).
Schultz does briefly explore society’s attitude toward psychedelic drug use, notably the strict anti-drug policy in the United States versus the more tolerant attitudes in other parts of the world. Two promising rulings have come from the United States Supreme Court recently: in 2004 they lifted a stay, thus allowing the Brazil-based União do Vegetal church to use a “tea” known as hoasca (which is similar to ayahuasca) during their Christmas services; in 2006, they ruled (in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal) that the U.S. federal government must allow the União do Vegetal church to import and consume the tea for religious ceremonies under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Despite being comprised of so many heady talking head interviews, The Spirit Molecule is a stunningly beautiful film to digest ocularly, featuring amazingly mind-blowing animated imagery from Scott Draves (Electric Sheep) which renders visually the various theories about DMT and the hallucinogenic trips themselves. In playful homage to Rod Sterling’s infamous Twilight Zone intros and outros, Joe Rogan appears intermittently in grainy black & white footage as our faithful guide through the fantastical world of The Spirit Molecule.