Both versions of Oliver Hockenhull’s new documentary offer lucid commentary on the therapeutic applications of psychedelics, but they approach their subject matter from different angles and even have different titles. The longer cut of the film, From Neurons to Nirvana: The Great Medicines, “is more of an esoteric piece”, the Vancouver-based filmmaker explained, while sipping peppermint tea with the Straight at his dining table. “It’s for those people who are more initiated into the experience of psychedelics.” It features more interviews, more references to bardo states, and some intensely trippy background visuals, animated by Hockenhull himself.
“The shorter one”—entitled Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychedelic Medicine, and cocredited to Mikki Willis—“is more of an advocacy film, in that it makes an argument for renewed research into the potential for these drugs,” continued Hockenhull, citing LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, MDMA, and cannabis. While it’s equally visually interesting, “it’s clearer that it’s more of a political and sociological investigation,” while the longer cut of the film is the more “philosophical”, as Hockenhull put it.
The short version is the one that will screen at a Sunday (April 20) event at the Vancity Theatre, in part because “it’s 4/20, and it has a cannabis section,” looking at the “healing potential” of pot. The 4/20 screening will be accompanied by a free panel discussion featuring confirmed guests Wade Davis, Chris Bennett, Gillian Maxwell, and Sobey Wing, many of whom appear in the film. Also attending will be the filmmaker and special guest Tu Tu Xuiyari, who has been “initiated in the Native American church” and whose name means “Rosary of Peyote Flowers”. The longer cut of the film will screen April 29 and May 1.