What inspired the making of Bufo Alvarius?
We wanted to create an attractive cinematic documentary that would inform about the existence of Bufo Alvarius as well as the philosophical and anthropological aspects associated with this powerful psychedelic drug through artistic means. Thanks to the use of certain audio-visual techniques, we try to communicate our message through viewers’ experience. We didn’t aim to create a scientific movie.
What was the process of making the movie?
Our initial focus was on a group of volunteers who underwent the Bufo Alvarius experience in Colombia. With their permission, our director recorded their individual ceremonies. It made for such powerful viewing that the decision was made to shoot another set of interviews, and to incorporate original animations inspired by the hallucinogenic visuals of psychoactive 5-MeO-DMT, to create a full feature movie.
Who funded the movie?
The film was funded by Václav Dejčmar, a businessman, philanthropist, occasional producer and co-owner of DOX Prague, the largest private centre of contemporary art in Eastern Europe. His previous feature documentary I am Fishead, investigating psychopathic individuals in business and politics, has been seen by millions worldwide. Václav Dejčmar is also the author of the storyline within the Bufo Alvarius documentary which highlights the confrontation between a psychiatrist (rational side) and a practicing shaman (emotion).
The neo-shaman Octavio Rettig, who works with Bufo Alvarius medicine, appears in your film. Is it your intention to promote his work?
Not at all. As stated above, we aimed from the outset to use art as a mean of presenting information about Bufo Alvarius, at the time an almost unknown phenomenon. Our intention is definitely not to advocate any specific methods of administration nor to promote the work of any particular facilitator, simply to shine a light on the effects. We are not in close contact with Mr. Rettig or any other shaman or facilitator of Bufo Alvarius.
Why there is a no other shaman than Octavio Rettig in the movie?
The aim of the documentary is not to compare the facilitators themselves. Instead, we give our audience an understanding of the unique substance by way of animations, and the subjective testimonials taken from the various people who all personally underwent the Bufo Alvarius experience. The goal is to give our audience a unique glimpse into this spectacular phenomena without them actually taking the substance themselves. Some viewers may find reasons to never embark further on this journey, others may be intrigued to find out more about Bufo Alvarius. We respect whichever conclusion they come to.
Are you following the current confrontations related to facilitators and institutions involved in Bufo Alvarius?
We have been following these controversies and it is unsurprising. Even among the Indigenous peoples of Peru, we saw that many shamans and various shamanic lines have long been in dispute over many subjects. We are convinced, however, that this ‘human factor’ has no effect on the validity of our documentary’s content. Bufo Alvarius as a modern phenomenon is unbound to any tradition, unlike other natural psychoactive substances. The methods of its use and execution of ceremonies can differ widely. Our film does not aim to compare these individual practises, or the personalities who work with this substance, but to focus on its subjective effects. Anyone following these controversies have to rely on their common sense to make their own educated judgment.
How is it possible that the toad medicine, whose effects promote an enhanced state of united consciousness and contact with the sacred, provoke such disputes among practitioners? Should not be all facilitators wise gurus immune to such controversies?
This opinion is naive for two reasons. Firstly, the Bufo Alvarius may give insight into the “higher order of reality”, like other psychedelics, but once the journey has come to an end each individual has to integrate the experience into their everyday lives. No bees no honey, no work no money 😉 Spiritual gurus in eastern traditions have undergone long years of spiritual practice. A one-time experience cannot be expected to result in a similar mindset, it can only act as a vehicle to a higher being, offering a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. If the process is not finished by a proper and humble integration, it may lead to a “spiritual bypass” wherein the trainee can easily experience feelings of self-proclaimed enlightenment and epiphany. Without sufficient self-reflection, such a wretched and confused result is possible just after several psychedelic experiences.
Secondly, the community around psychedelics is currently very diverse. Even among the traditional shamans themselves, there is not always a correlation between the quality of the facilitator (their practical ability to help people and successfully lead the ceremony) and his own spiritual maturity.
Someone could find the movie unbalanced. Why are there no testimonials of those who had a negative experience?
The truth is that during our months of shooting we did not encounter anyone who reacted negatively. Everyone in our film speaks truthfully about their own experience with the Bufo Alvarius. Nevertheless, we do always emphasize that this is a strong psychedelic which can affect each and every user differently. In some situations this could mean in undesirable ways. In both the documentary and our website, there are warnings about the potential contraindications, and in many places we highlight the crucial importance of adequate preparation, subsequent integration, and the role of the set and setting (the impact of the user’s mental state in combination with the physical and social environment during the ceremony).
Back to Mr. Octavio Rettig. I have read some stories about his unethical and inadequate behavior in his capacity as Bufo Alvarius facilitator. What is your position regarding these accusations?
We are obviously strictly standing against any psychedelic and entheogenic malpractice. Nature of the bond between a facilitator and a client who is administered with a psychedelic substance is the most sensitive and serious one. However, we are neither in a position to support such allegations nor to defend Mr. Rettig. All we can say is that Mr. Rettig facilitated Bufo sessions of the crew as well as all the psychonauts from our movie and his practises worked great for all of us. From our point of view back in 2016, he was widely appreciated as an experienced and sensible 5-MeO-DMT guide. On the other hand, we all know – say – stories of Nobel Price winners who started to advocate unacceptable ideas later in life. In same sense, the whole topic of spiritual endeavour is a history of human failures of all kinds. Nevertheless, our film is neither about any particular practise nor facilitator. Our film is about Bufo Alvarius and 5-MeO-DMT.
Many thank you for your interest in our documentary!
From the Bufo Alvarius movie crew, we wish you the best of luck on your journey through life.