From Neurons to Nirvana

(Canada, 2013, 108 mins)
FEATURING Gabor Mate, Dennis McKenna, Rick Doblin, Charles Grob, Jeremy Narby, Stanislav Grof, Professor David Nutt


What if everything you thought you knew about drugs was wrong? What if society has misread - or been misled - about what science says about psychedelic substances? What if prohibition only exists to safeguard social inhibition (and big pharma profits)? Through interviews with the world’s foremost researchers, writers, psychologists and pioneers in psychedelic psychotherapy, Vancouver filmmaker Oliver Hockenhull explores the history of five powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) and their now established medicinal potential.

Note: The screening on 4/20 will be the alternate 69-minute cut Neurons to Nirvana co-credited to Hockenhull and Mikki Willis. It will feature a free panel discussion the issues raised in the film. Confirmed panelists are Wade Davis, Chris Bennett, Gillian Maxwell, Tu Tu Xuiyari (Rosary of Peyote Flowers), Sobey Wing (Evolver Vancouver) and Oliver Hockenhull.

Oliver Hockenhull bio

Oliver is an artist, screenwriter, communication theorist, stand-up philosopher, essayist and lecturer who works in film, video, hyper media installations, writing, and design. He taught at Northwestern University in Chicago and has presented at Universities in Canada, the US, and Europe. His films are visionary meals, spiced by an intimate, poetic, and enlightening perspective into the complexity of issues and subjects under examination. He has concentrated on pivotal subjects; an early film essay about political discourse and activism, the social and intellectual import of the eminent writer, Aldous Huxley, an experimental film essay on evolution that features Richard Dawkins (and the gorillas of the London Zoo), and an essay on the built environment and the binary code. From Neurons to Nirvana is his latest film.

CHRIS BENNETT has been studying the historical role of cannabis—particularly in the realms of religion, spirituality and magic—for over 20 years. A passionate and committed advocates for reclaiming and honouring cannabis’ potential as a medicine and spiritual ally, Chris is also considered one of the leading scholars on the history of the spiritual use of cannabis. He is the author of three books: ’Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion’ (1995); ’Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible’ (2000); and ’Cannabis and the Soma Solution’ (2010), as well as dozens of articles on this same theme for a variety of magazines and journals. Chris currently resides in Vancouver, where he owns and runs an ethnobotanical shop, The Urban Shaman.

GILLIAN MAXWELL is the Project Director of Keeping the Door Open: Dialogues on Drug Use (KDO). KDO is a multi-sectoral, community-based coalition that organizes dialogues on problematic substance use to educate the public and inform public policy in Vancouver. Maxwell is a knowledge exchange broker and is well known in British Columbia as the host and facilitator of many public forums that have taken place at Simon Fraser University’s Wosk Centre for Dialogue. An experienced organizer, public speaker and facilitator, Maxwell brings human warmth to match a sophisticated and well-crafted rigour to public debate and dialogue events.

WADE DAVIS is a Canadian anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer whose work has focused on worldwide indigenous cultures, especially in North and South America and particularly involving the traditional uses and beliefs associated with psychoactive plants. Davis came to prominence with his 1985 best-selling book The Serpent and the Rainbow about the zombies of Haiti. Davis has published popular articles in Outside, National Geographic, Fortune and Condé Nast Traveler. Davis is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.

"Fuses science, art and spirituality into a seamless whole." Geoff Olson, Vancouver Courier