Sick Birds Die Easy

There's a plant that grows in Africa called Iboga that when ingested causes psychotropic effects that are believed to have the ability to cure serious addictions including those to drugs like heroin. Believers in Iboga's powers indulge in a ritual called Bwiti that culminates in the taking of Iboga.

Based on this lore director Fackler, the front man of band Icky Blossoms and director of music videos for acts such as Cursive, Bright Eyes and Azure Ray, went to Gabon with a ragtag group of substance-addled friends with the intention of committing their collective Bwiti experience to film while hoping that some of the group, like Oxy-addicted Ross Brockley, could kick their habit.

The expedition itself, while no doubt life-changing for all the participants in some way, was a failure. Only the abrasive, conspiracy theorist Brockley, pretty much a jerk throughout the entire film, ends up going through the full Bwiti initiation only to get nothing out of it, complaining the next day that all it did for him was make him puke endlessly. But while the experiment was a dud, the film is not.

Populated with strong personalities like Brockley's and Bwiti-believing characters like French transplant to Gabon "TataYo," the film speaks volumes on the human condition and how personal philosophy effects each of us.

The group snuck weed, acid and Oxy into Gabon so they're often loaded while out in the jungle searching for Iboga, on occasion being chased by angry indigenous people or getting lost for days. There's great footage of the adventurers joining in the fun of tribal dances, and since most participants carried video cameras, Fackler was able to cobble together footage and audio commentary from various perspectives, Brockley's bitchy/crazy ranting being the most interesting of the viewpoints.

Fackler dishes out just a tad more philosophy than needed with his narration as the viewer can easily see what's going on here and draw their own conclusion, and some will find the film very profound. But the fact is there's a great story here that plays out in an exotic location that can also be enjoyed mindlessly.

Sick Birds Die Easy has racked-up numerous awards at recent film festivals and no doubt the kudos will continue to roll in now that it's widely available.

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