Review by James Lindorf
From 1999 to 2016, there were more than 200,000 deaths related to prescription opioid overdose, with a death toll five times higher in 2016 than 1999. This stat plus his history with addiction and chronic pain led writer and director Chris Bell on his mission to find a non-addiction alternative to both prescription and illegal opioids. Bell brought together an impressive mix of scientists, politicians, celebrities and everyday supporters and dissenters of the effectiveness of Kratom. You can see all of the arguments when A Leaf of Faith makes its debut on iTunes and Google Play May 29th.
Kratom is native to Southeast Asia and part of the Rubiaceae family, which includes the coffee plant. Kratom is said to carry alkaloids that can kill pain, provide energy, and wean people off opioids, as well as suppressing social anxiety and PTSD without deadly side effects. It’s easy to see why it has so many advocates but its opponents say that the claims are untested and fueling an unregulated industry that has led to some illnesses and even a few deaths.
Bell was able to produce a documentary that is entertaining and more importantly compelling. He was able to blend passion and humor in a story about nature vs. science and the will of the people vs. the DEA. Even though the runtime is only 86 minutes, I think it would have been better around 80 or maybe even 75 minutes because it drags during the middle portion of the film. We are provided with all of the varying arguments, and then they are reiterated, more than once, before Bell moves on to the next element of the story. It is clear that Bell is a true believer and as a result, he overstuffed his movie with people who would sing the praises of Kratom, which is its biggest flaw. He approaches the situation from so many different angels I wish he would have distributed the time more evenly.
Some people will watch A Leaf of Faith and see the big bad government or big pharma, while others will see hippies or addicts looking for a new fix. In the end, there is a lot to learn from this film and a lot to consider about how we approach the treatment of pain and people who have become addicted to opioids. Even though this is not my preferred approach for a documentary, it doesn’t diminish the production quality or the argument that is presented. I would suggest to anyone who is interested that they watch and decide for themselves on the 29th.
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