Posted By Ina Woolcott
From the Telegraph, by Chris Moss
Last Updated: 10:18AM BST 24 Sep 2008
Bruce Parry talks about Amazon, his new BBC series, where he experiences the shocking challenges facing the region today – and of the surreal experience of taking psychotropic drugs with indigenous tribes….
The episodes are themed to cover the Amazon region’s key challenges: cocaine; oil exploitation; indigenous people dying of epidemics; sustainable development; the gold rush; logging, cattle-ranching, land-grabbing, and slavery.
Parry is well known for his emotive style of presenting, which he puts down to his “stringent” upbringing (public school, armed forces) and limited linguistic abilities (“If I don’t show what I am feeling people won’t open up and I can’t communicate with anyone”). He is engagingly confessional in person, too. “There’s a lot of guilt in all this,” he admits. “I had to reduce my own ego to make this series. I was aware that I’m part of the problem. I’ve got an iPhone, I’m a consumer, I’m flying around making this series, and there is a lot of hypocrisy in all this.”
He appears to use his television work as a kind of therapy. His immersion-style of broadcasting involves a lot of discomfort and derring-do, and, during the making of the new series, he twice tried the notorious psychotropic drug ayahuasca. “It was the most extraordinary thing,” he says. “While I was living with a tribal group on the Ecuadorean border making a film about social problems as a result of oil exploitation, they offered to do it with me.
“I didn’t get a vision the first time as it wasn’t very strong. So I did it a second time in Iquitos [Peru], with a modern-day shaman; there’s a whole ‘ayahuasca tourism’ thing going on in Peru. The setting is the key, and I was lucky as I did it in a natural place, and had people near me who knew what they were doing.”
This time he got his vision. “I watched the ayahuasca plant beating the s*** out of my ego. The plant is trying to show me stuff and my ego is not letting it. And I’m at the side shouting ‘Shut up, ego!’ It wasn’t exactly a vision. As soon as I started to get the visuals, I was sick and so I took more of the drug, and then my ego came back, and I got sick again; the lesson was that the ego is ugly. I was told: you’ve been around a bit, you think you know a lot but you know f**** all. It was cathartic.”
He gives warning against popularising these types of extreme tourism. “I had read a lot before I did it and I knew the neurochemistry. It shouldn’t be glorified because there are lots of charlatans doing it, too – there are stories of rape and you have to realise you are entering into a state where you lose yourself.”
For the full interview click HERE