You may not know Chris Bell, but you probably know his movies.
As the creative force behind multiple ground-breaking documentaries, Bell has solidified his place in culture as a disruptive force for truth as well as a fearless ‘David’ character willing to take on the Goliaths of the world without so much as a blink. In 2008, he made his debut with Bigger, Stronger, Faster, a critically acclaimed feature that delved into the dangerous and complicated world of performance-enhancing drugs. Then, in 2013, he shined the spotlight on overbearing parents with his heart-wrenching follow-up documentary, Trophy Kids. Finally, in 2015, he took off the gloves and went after Big Pharma with Prescription Thugs, a searing exposé that revealed the troubling connection between the drug industry and the opioid crisis. Now, in 2018, he’s back with arguably the most important film in his repertoire thus far, called A Leaf of Faith. Now available on Netflix, this latest release in Bell’s steady-stream of paradigm shifters is a compelling and insightful look at the facts and controversy surrounding kratom, the industry’s current biggest liability and second-favorite herbal remedy.
Fair warning to the pre-existing converts of the leaf: wear a jacket and keep tissues handy. Side-effects of the film may include hearty chills and relief-filled tears. Don’t worry; it’s natural—just like the plant. After years of being forced to sit by powerlessly while the establishment media waged a smear campaign against the Southeast Asian miracle herb, you’d be hard-pressed to stifle the emotions as the overwhelming feeling of vindication washes over you.
In many ways, A Leaf of Faith could be viewed as a sequel to Prescription Thugs. The latter effectively shined the light on the explosive opioid epidemic, while the former provides a solution. But while Bell comes right out of the gate acknowledging his belief in the safety and efficacy of kratom, the film still manages to remain even-handed. The filmmaker exercises an uncanny ability to balance his advocacy with objectivity, employing a rational, fact-based approach to the subject in which no stone is left un-turned and no claim, positive or negative, escapes scrutiny. In his quest for truth over hearsay, Bell digs deep and analyzes every argument and angle. For testimonials, he presents a wealth of personal anecdotes from all walks of life; an 89-year-old woman, a veteran with PTSD, a comedian, even Bell’s own father and brother. For insight, he consults with verified experts—doctors, researchers and pharmacists who have studied the plant extensively, a few negative, but most of them positive. For accountability, he brings in the importers and manufacturers, including Kelly Dunn from Urban Ice and Dave Darien from Lucky Kratom. For balance, he engages the plant’s most vocal detractors, including skeptical doctors, grandstanding politicians, and a woman whose son was found to have kratom in his system after he tragically took his own life. Bell keenly and adeptly navigates the myriad of facts, opinions and anecdotes to sew together a narrative that is both forceful and inspiring, but most importantly, credible.
On an activist front, this is by far, the most important movie made in 2018. A documentary from a respectable filmmaker whose work is so widely regarded just as much for its commitment to truth as its production value is what this movement has sorely missed from the beginning—and the fact that it’s available on the most popular medium of our time only makes it more exciting. Watch the film, but don’t stop there. Recommend it. Share it. Spread the word and let’s keep this amazing herb safe and legal.