‘The Last Shaman’ Examines Depression and the Healing Powers of Ayahuasca

The Last Shaman

Despite the advances of western medicine over the past hundred years or so, there’s still a sense of mystery when it comes to the human mind. There are no simple answers as to the roots of depression and the dark cloud it raises over the psyche. In the new film from director Raz Degan, The Last Shaman, the director follows James Freeman, a young man suffering from an intense case of depression, as he travels to Peru in search of shaman that may use their passed down knowledge and rituals to help cure his intense depression. The Last Shaman is often a fascinating portrait of an afflicted soul searching for answers but sometimes loses its way with its flashy presentation and complete abdication as to issues of class.

James Freeman is an educated young man that, in his own words, says he feels dead inside. This once bubbling young man has been stricken with a case of depression so strong that he feels there are no answers for what’s afflicting him. He’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals with suicidal thoughts and anti-depressants haven’t been yielding any tangible results. With no other options, James travels to Peru in search of shaman that employ Ayahuasca, a natural remedy used by the tribes, with the hope of curing his incurable depression.

In his first stop, James is slowly weening off his anti-depressants before he can take the Ayahuasca. The combination of substances can be deadly, as James soon finds out when a young man at the first shaman’s village dies overnight due to a mixture of his medication and the Ayahuasca. This is a shocking moment in the movie and one that allows Raz Degan to make his movie about much more than simply natural remedies versus western medicine. As with any substance, careful considerations must be taken and the recklessness of the first shaman that James visits leaves him searching for another healer in the jungle.

It’s a while before James is able to find the shaman that is able to help him and proceeds to begin a six-month process of Ayahuasca and tribal remedies that finally leave the young man with a certain sense of self that had been lost. But there’s also a political aspect to the tribal elements and the growth of Ayahuasca. James’ shaman is expelled from his village and he unable to thank and say goodbye to the shaman when it is his time to leave.

The Last Shaman is a strongly constructed piece of documentary filmmaking for the most part, especially ramping up when the hallucinatory drug is ingested. Here is where The Last Shaman looks like a flashback to ‘60s acid films, color and sound swirling across the screen in a frenzy of images rapidly spliced together. It’s a flashy presentation and little else, a cinematic device that Degan leans on too heavily as the film wears on.

One aspect of The Last Shaman that the film simply doesn’t address are the class issues in James Freeman’s search for a cure. He’s a young man from an affluent family, obviously, but the film fails to address this issue. James is incredibly lucky to be able to take six months traversing Peru in search of a cure for his deep depression, a luxury that is simply unavailable to countless people with a similar affliction. It’s an aspect of James’ story that should get a bit more attention as the film is in a precarious situation of endorsing a tribal remedy that is all but unavailable to most.

The Last Shaman works best when James is bearing the struggles that are going on within his mind, conveying a brutal honesty that is heartbreaking. For the most part, Raz Degan explores the topic of depression and the healing properties of Ayahuasca with a balance that presents its benefits and dangers.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Gothic box art
‘Gothic’ Hits Blu-ray For the First Time From Vestron Video

Vestron Video has a long  history of putting out quirky and...

Coco press conference
The Brains and Stars Behind ‘Coco’ Discuss Bringing Pixar’s Latest Wonder to the Screen

Once again, the storytelling geniuses at Pixar has delivered another crowd-pleasing...

Coco review
‘Coco’ is Disney-Pixar’s Latest Rousing Triumph

There are few film divisions (if any) out there that have...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Super Beat Sports Review
Drop the Beat, Don’t Drop the Ball – Super Beat Sports Review [Switch]

Harmonix delivers another game that’s as fun and catchy as that song...

Nioh: Complete Edition Review
Test Your Metal – Nioh: Complete Edition Review [PC]

Definitive proof that there is fun in challenge and frustration –...

Review – Bad Apple Wars (PSV)

Rinka is your typical high school girl. She goes through life,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

viz media
Viz Media Digital Manga Update for November

TLDR Viz Media announced its digital manga update for November will...

viz media
New Anime and Manga for the Holidays from Viz Media

Viz Media releases new anime and manga for the upcoming holidays....

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Are you Ready for WWE Survivor Series? Check Out Loot Crate First!

Updated from Thursday’s Original Post: One of the original “Big 4”...

Are You Worthy to Wield Thor’s Hammer (Tool Set)?

ThinkGeek’s 44 piece Thor’s hammer tool set is the perfect gift...

Legendary Dragon Decks Review
Dragons are the Coolest – Yu-Gi-Oh! Legendary Dragon Decks Review

Dragons are ingrained into every season of Yu-Gi-Oh, here’s your chance...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
AXS TV Closes NJPW’s ‘G1 Climax 27’ With Four Episodes From The Final Weekend Beginning Friday Oct. 13

Los Angeles, CA (Oct. 11, 2017) – “Rainmakers” and “High Fly...

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Rocky Romero has created an auction to raise money for UNIDOS por Puerto Rico Disaster Relief

I’m The costume was worn by Rocky during the final Roppongi...

Douglas Lima Defends his Bellator Welterweight Title Against Rory MacDonald at the Forum on 1/20

LOS ANGELES – One year removed from its previous event at...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity Issue #10 – Justice League XXX


Javier Fernandez
Future Comic Rock Stars – Javier Fernandez

It’s been an incredibly long time since I’ve written this column...

Comics on the Can – Double Dragon

Comics on the can Double Dragon Writer – Dwayne McDuffie Pencils...

Event News Event Reviews
go little tokyo
Five Reasons to Visit LA’s Little Tokyo For the Holidays

Go Little Tokyo is pleased to host Go Little Tokyo for the...

BlizzCon 2017
Another Cool Year at BlizzCon – BlizzCon 2017 Roundup

BlizzCon 2017 was packed full of Blizzard news that chilled fans...

LA Comic Con 2017
Stan Lee and Dwayne Johnson Rock the Main Stage at LA Comic Con 2017

LA Comic Con (formerly Comikaze) brings the star power with its...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...

Lahna Turner’s ‘Limeade’ is a Hilariously Haunting Comedy Album

Many people are roll their eyes at the idea of musical...