I think we have a lot to learn from other cultures, especially ancient cultures. That's why my interest was peaked by Nicholas Polizzi's documentary The Sacred Science. This film follows eight people from around the world suffering from varying illnesses. The patients in this story have diseases as severe as cancer and Parkinson's Disease to depression and alcoholism. They choose to leave western medicine and everything else behind for 30 days and live in the Amazon jungles of Peru to try the cures of the indigenous medicine men. The film follows them over the 30 days with both patient interviews and interviews with their healers.
The idea of this documentary is very interesting and it has some really touching and moving movements. However, I feel like this doc would work a lot better as a multi-part series on Nat Geo or the Discovery Channel. Polizzi tries to fit a lot into the 77 minutes of this film, but there are two main things missing. And both of those things leave the viewer on the outside and not truly involved and invested in this film.
First off, we don't get a lot of back story on the people who we're to sympathize and empathize with. And without a back story, it's hard to really get emotionally involved with these people. Polizzi is trying to talk about the perils of life and death, but we don't understand the subjects lives enough to be more than worried on the surface about their illness and its possible fatal consequences.
Second, the medicine men talk a lot about the medicines they are using on the patients; however, they do not explain their effects. For example, they continually mention Ayahuasca and that it is important to the patients' healing. Yet, the only mention of its effects, dizziness and vomiting, are during an interview with one of the medicine men. But it leaves you wondering why they would give the patients something to make them feel worse. The truth is that Ayahuasca has psychedelic effects, and it is used to open their minds and get the patients in touch with themselves. But I only know that because they use it in a scene in Wanderlust. An average person watching this documentary would have no idea what these plants actually do.
If Polizzi fleshed this out more into a series, he could really dive deeper into both areas. As it stands, this documentary is hard to get involved with on a deeper level. I watched it feeling on the outside and not really drawn in.
But Polizzi does touch on some interesting ideas about where illness truly comes from. And at the start of the film, he tells you that out of the eight people, five will have dramatic results, two will be disappointed, and one will not return home. I thought I knew for sure who would fall into each category, but I was mistaken, and that was a nice surprise. Not being able to call the results right away definitely drew me in more.
The Sacred Science is worth a watch. It touches on some interesting ideas about health and healing and life and death. But after my viewing of it, I know why it was only an "Official Selection" for the film festivals it got into and not a winner.
The Sacred Science premieres on DVD & iTunes on September 18.