Director Michel Negroponte is no stranger to challenging subjects for his documentaries nor does he shy away from controversy. Negroponte is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker whose 2005 doc Methadonia
about a group of heroin addicts on methadone maintenance put Negroponte's work out to a wider world after it played as an HBO Documentary. With I'm Dangerous With Love,
Negroponte explores the world of Dimitri Mugianis, former frontman for the band Leisure Class and a longtime heroin addict who does a rapid detox off heroin using an experimental, and illegal in the United States, treatment from the hallucinogen ibogaine.
As is appropriate given the intense subject matter, I'm Dangerous With Love
is a challenging view with its brutally honest and graphic depiction of drug addiction, detox and the world of the addict. Yet, for all the times that the film is difficult to watch it is also impossible to not watch this captivating central subject, a man who is dangerous with love yet passionate about the fact that ibogaine saved his life and can help countless others overcome their addictions.
Mugianis went through his treatment at an Amsterdam clinic after 20 years as an addict, and he's now an "ibogaine provider" who helps to facilitate and provide the treatment for others who were just like him.
The film's, and perhaps Mugianis's, defining moment comes when a near tragedy strikes during a Mugianis administered treatment. The experience so shakes up Mugianis that he heads off to Gabon for what could best be described as both an exploration of the true roots of ibogaine and on his own spiritual journey that will ultimately redefine his future with ibogaine.
African shamans have used ibogaine in rituals for centuries, yet allegedly because of its potential for a harsh reaction (up to and including death) ibogaine is considered a Schedule 1 substance in the U.S.
The beauty of I'm Dangerous With Love,
whether you ultimately agree with Mugianis's actions or not, is in the way Negroponte constructs the film with an absolute sense of integrity that captures what at least feels like a true, balanced portrayal of Mugianis that doesn't shy away from the dangerous and controversial nature of his actions and his beliefs. On a certain level, there's no denying that Mugianis is a bit of a madman and Negroponte never turns away from this edginess. At times, this gives the film an uncomfortableness and even an awkwardness that some might interpret as passive, detached filmmaking. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Negroponte has fashioned I'm Dangerous With Love
in such a way that it feels far more satisfying emotionally and intellectually than if Negroponte had tried to weave in an analysis of ibogaine rather than a journey through the world of Dimitri Mugianis and his history of healing.
The scenes in Gabon, West Africa are beautifully shot and magnificently framed in such a way that the enlightenment of Mugianis feels genuine and the film itself blossoms. Just as Mugianis has experienced a rebirth, so too has I'm Dangerous With Love.
I'm Dangerous With Love
has an energized desperation, a rawness that is both refreshing and a touch frightening, a relentless honesty and, perhaps just to give audiences a bit of breathing room, a little bit of humor and, maybe a little surprising, a tremendous amount of heart. Films, both doc and narrative, are plentiful about addiction. However, few films dealing with addiction breathe as much life, passion and compassion as does I'm Dangerous With Love,
a film with words and images that will haunt you long after the the closing credits have rolled by.
I'm Dangerous With Love
is currently on the film festival and arthouse circuit and opens Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 at the IFC Center in New York City. For more information on the film, visit the I'm Dangerous With Love website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic