Published Apr 30, 2010Promotional pictures show a bunch of white guys hanging out in a cheap motel room wearing African face paint, dancing out some kind of way-too-serious ceremony. Don't let that sway you, because the subject of Michael Negroponte's film ― healer, former junkie and Leisure Class singer Dimitri Mugianis ― is one of the coolest people on earth.
He was friends with beat legend Herbert Huncke, who advised everyone to "shoot their best stick," so when Mugianis's wife died of an O.D., he kicked heroin and coke using the hallucinogen Ibogaine. He stayed clean, now his life's purpose is providing this "sacrament" to other addicts.
Heroin withdrawal is torture (see: Trainspotting, Nikki Sixx bios, William Burroughs books), but with Ibogaine, made from tree bark, symptoms disappear within minutes. Mugianis's clients are euphoric with relief. Ibogaine may also cure alcohol addiction or be taken by seekers looking to "break open the head," as described in the Daniel Pinchbeck book of the same name. So it stands to reason that it's a class one narcotic in the United States. This element of criminal chaos draws the magnetic hipster in as a passionate front-man for Ibogaine.
When a client heavily addicted to methadone (which is legally prescribed to get people off heroin and far harder to kick when abused) goes into convulsions, Dimitri wonders if his altruistic thrill-seeking isn't just dangerous arrogance.
They head to Gabon, West Africa where Dimitri is initiated by shamans in an eye-popping ceremony where even toddlers take spoonfuls of Iboga. Only then does he start wearing the face paint, leaving the impression he's earned it. (Black Bridge)