Ayahuasca brew

Preparation of the ayahuasca drink with the cooking of Amazon plants by Apollo (CC BY 2.0)

The Last Shaman

This film is about the experience of James Freeman with finding a shaman who could honestly guide him in the experience of taking ayahuasca, as a means to combat his severe depression. As the son of high achievers from a small town in Boston, USA, James feels a lot of pressure when enrolling in one of the best colleges of the country. This results in him wanting to take his own life until he decides to go on a journey to the Amazon, in order to find a shaman that could help him heal from the lack of desire of living a full life.

The quest for ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew made of plants  and used as a ceremonial medicine by indigenous people in the Amazon. It is a social ritual that takes place under the guidance of a shaman, a healer, somebody recognised by the people in a village as being able to offer guidance and healing, both spiritual and physical. Many countries in South America are familiar with the process and it has become a source of income for individuals that claim to be shamans but are often charlatans. A stream of tourists looking for ayahuasca change the dynamics around this ritual and it is often risky for all parties involved. For the indigenous communities that have opened up to interests of westerners in search of the ultimate experience and for the individuals that are often drawn into the process in their quest for help.

A fly on the wall

As a viewer I sometimes felt as a fly on the wall, because the documentary style of the film was rigorous in its attempt to show the process James goes through. He is portrayed as someone who is feeling really bad but cannot understand why. His journey becomes a matter of life and death and he is willing to go through all aspects of the experience. We therefore have a very personal account of what happened to him and the people he encountered, such as Pepe, the shaman he develops a strong bond with.

The film is directed by Raz Degan, a former Israeli model and counts among its many producers Leonardo di Caprio and Italian actor Luca Argentero. It was made in 2016 and is currently streaming on Netflix in the Netherlands.

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