Director Michel Negroponte’s camera focuses on the legs of Tank, a 20-year-old heroin addict who has pulled her pants up mid-thigh to reveal, “I don’t have any veins left in my body. I cooked everything—my feet, my hands. . . .” Tank has just signed on for the underground detox treatment of Dimitri Mugianis, a former musician and junkie who uses the hallucinogen ibogaine to cure junkies of their habits in less than a week. (Ibogaine, classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, is illegal in the U.S.) As this fantastic, three-years-in-the-making documentary illustrates while following Dimitri and assorted clients, his method works. Usually. But when a harrowing detox session shakes him, Dimitri leaves his New York base for Africa to study the spiritual applications of ibogaine; African shamans have been using it for centuries. There, he has his own powerful spiritual epiphany. With the exception of animated sequences illustrating the director’s own trip after he decides to ingest ibogaine for himself, Negroponte’s visuals are Doc 101—he simply points and shoots. But that doesn’t matter; the life stories told (particularly Dimitri’s) and the experiences of coming clean sell themselves.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 12, 2011