I’m Dangerous with Love

Directed by Michael Negroponte

As several of the addicts profiled in the new documentary I’m Dangerous with Love tell director Michael Negroponte, detoxing from drug abuse is such a difficult, deliberating process, it’s no wonder that there’s an underground market for get-clean-quick miracle cures.  According to the film, one such “cure” is ibogaine, a West African hallucinogen that’s widely used in shaman rituals, but resides on the list of banned substances stateside.

Negroponte’s primary subject, a one-time rock musician named Dimitri Mugianis, kicked his heroin habit several years ago after a single treatment of ibogaine (he claims recovery lasted a mere 24 hours with no withdrawal symptoms) and ever since then he’s organized clandestine healing sessions for other addicts looking to get clean.  Meeting his clients in anonymous motel rooms and occasionally private homes, Dimitri administers carefully measured doses of the hallucinogen—which can impair mobility and also cause nausea or heart conditions—and then continues to monitor them for signs of any adverse reactions, up to and including a fatal overdose.  Roughly an hour into the film, one of his patients does indeed come close to dying, forcing Mugianis to reconsider his choice of treatment.  The last half-hour follows him to Africa, where he undergoes an iboga initiation ceremony as a way to prove to himself that this drug works and that he’s the right man to administer it to people in need.

It’s worth noting that at no point in I’m Dangerous with Love does Negroponte discuss ibogaine with a drug enforcement officer or, more importantly, a medical professional.  Whether he made this choice to protect Dimitri or himself (the director takes ibogaine twice on camera, once in his home and a second time during Mugianis’ initiation in Gabon) it’s an oversight that makes the film’s objectivity about the drug questionable.  Then again, Negroponte seems less interested in ibogaine as a possible healing substance than as a vehicle to the exploring the life of a former addict that now makes it his mission to help other people in similar situations.  Unfortunately, I’m Dangerous with Love isn’t particularly compelling or trustworthy as a character portrait either.  The director seems far too enamored with his subject; even when addressing Dimitri’s almost fatal mistake with one of his clients, Negroponte is quick to let him off the hook.  In the face of the harsh realities of drug addiction, I’m Dangerous with Love offers only vague conjecture and unsupported solutions.

I’m Dangerous with Love is currently playing at New York’s IFC Center.  Visit the film’s official website for upcoming playdates.