The Jungle Prescription



The Jungle Prescription is a documentary film created for a global audience (including the CBC’s Nature of Things with David Suzuki). It introduces ayahuasca and its encounter with the West - through the story of two doctors, their patients, a team of scientists, and a group of indigenous shamans


The Jungle Prescription stars: Dr. Gabor Maté and his patients, Dr. Jacques Mabit, Humberto Piaguaje, the UMIYAC organization of traditional healers, scientists Jordi Riba and Josep María Fábregas, Vancouver, Barcelona, the Amazon Jungle, a very special group of plants... and the deepest recesses of our subconscious minds.




The Jungle Prescription is the tale of two doctors treating their addicted patients with a mysterious Amazonian medicine rumored to reveal one’s deepest self. Dr. Gabor Maté has a revolutionary idea: to treat addicts with compassion.  His work as the resident doctor in Vancouver’s Portland Hotel - a last-chance destination for lifelong drug abusers - has been courageous, but incredibly frustrating. Maté hears of an ancient medicine beyond his imaginings: one that could provide his patients with a solution. Its name is ayahuasca: the vine of the souls. Deep in the Amazon jungle, French doctor Jacques Mabit is using this medicine to treat hardcore addicts.  Mabit runs a detox centre in the Amazon (Takiwasi or "The House That Sings"), using the plants and methods of traditional medicine.  Ayahuasca is a visionary formula that unlocks emotional memory; causing life-changing catharsis in those who drink it. Success rates for curing addicts at Dr. Mabit's detox centre are quadruple the average. Inspired by Mabit’s centre, Mate will risk his career trying to establish a similar program in Canada.


Since the publication of his award-winning book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Mate has been one of Canada’s leading thinkers on addiction and its deeper causes. The experience of making the film has had a profound impact on him: “As a physician all too aware of the limitations and narrowness of Western medicine, I have learned much from working with this plant. The Jungle Prescription took me far physically, but even further in the spiritual realm where our deepest humanity resides.  The plant, and the experience with the plant, is no panacea. There are no panaceas. But as an opening to human possibility, even in the face of lifelong trauma and desperation, it offers much. Seeing people open to themselves, even temporarily, has been a teaching and an inspiration.”


Directed and photographed by Mark Ellam, the film is the result of a ten-year journey by the filmmakers deep into the Amazonian rainforest, to understand what lies at the heart of traditional medicine. Ellam’s unique cinematic vision has helped to create a number of award-winning films for cinema and television, including The Take (directed by Avi Lewis and written by Naomi Klein), Big Sugar (Prix Gemeaux and Golden Sheaf Award for best documentary), Empz 4 Life (Allan King’s final film), A Promise To The Dead (shortlisted for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary). Mark was associate director and cinematographer on RIP: A Remix Manifesto – winner of the Volkskrant Audience Award at IDFA and the first open-source documentary for theatrical release by the National Film Board of Canada, the Doc Channel and EYESTEELFILM.


The Jungle Prescription shuns easy answers, challenging preconceptions about addiction and the so-called War on Drugs. This sensitive, nuanced portrait of two doctors trying to find a new way to treat their patients takes us on a powerful emotional journey.