Interview
Winter 2017/18 issue

Putting the record straight

Ananda More was backpacking around India when she discovered the healing benefits of homeopathy. Following the release of her first film, Magic Pills, she talks to H & H about her journey towards a deeper understanding of the medicine.

You’ve practised as a homeopath since 2005. How did this career choice come about?

I was actually very sceptical of homeopathy when I was younger as I did a course called “Witchcraft and the occult” while I was studying at the University of Alberta, and one of the things we looked at was homeopathy. I believed in all other kinds of alternative forms of medicine, like reiki, herbology, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture—all of those made sense to me—but when we were learning about homeopathy, the teacher focused on the dilution and how there was nothing in the remedies, so I thought it sounded ridiculous.

Filmmaker Ananda More on how making Magic Pills led her to a deeper understanding of homeopathy
Ananda More, director

Years later I was travelling in India when a disc in my back herniated. I ended up in hospital and my insurance company wanted me to go home and have surgery, but I decided to stay and try Ayurveda and reiki instead. People kept saying to me, “Oh, you must try homeopathy! It’s the best—cheap and best!” but I didn’t believe in it.

One day when I was visiting the ancient Indian village of Hampi with a friend of mine from Germany, whose mother was a homeopath, I woke up and was really sick. My friend brought me some of her sugar pills and I thought I would humour her and take them. But very, very quickly I felt much better and I was astounded. I started thinking that maybe there was something to this.

Later, when I was in Pune, I met a girl who was working as a receptionist for a homeopath, so I decided to go and meet him and learn more. He took my case and that’s what really lifted my long-standing depression for me, which I had been suffering from for most of my life. Before then I’d never done anything about my depression, I thought that it was just me.

I’d been planning to go to law school once I returned from my trip, but because of the herniated disk I couldn’t sit for long periods of time to do my applications. So I had to put it off for a year and in that time I completely changed my mind. I was flabbergasted by what homeopathy had done for me and I wanted to be able to wield that “magic” in my hands! So, I decided to go and study and become a homeopath.

Patients waiting to go into Dr Prasanta Banerji’s Homeopathic Research Foundation in Kolkata, India
Patients waiting to go into Dr Prasanta Banerji’s Homeopathic Research Foundation in Kolkata, India

Why do you think there is such controversy around homeopathy?

What we keep seeing in the media is this very manipulated, biased storyline that looks nothing like what homeopathy is and what we know about it and the true evidence base.

I think everyone is affected by that narrative. As a practitioner, you’re told that you’re a quack, that everything you’ve observed is untrue and that all the science out there that exists is not valid. I think we’re keeping what could be a lifesaving and life-changing medicine from the masses by building this story.

Camilla Sherr left and Jane Davy from the Homeopathy for Health in Africa project
Camilla Sherr left and Jane Davy from the Homeopathy for Health in Africa project

From just a quick look at what the basis of homeopathy could be, it does seem ludicrous. But that doesn’t take into account how energy works. “Energy” is this big word that gets thrown around, but it’s the basis of everything and that may lead to a scientific explanation of the mechanism of action of homeopathy.

Research has shown we’re able to measure electromagnetic signatures of remedies and there’s a growing understanding of how our bodies communicate using electromagnetic fields. There are new discoveries showing that there are nanoparticles* of source material in high homeopathic dilutions, so we can no longer say that there is nothing present in a remedy diluted beyond 12c.

I also think homeopathy challenges this mechanical notion of the universe that a lot of people are very attached to. So if you challenge that materialistic view, you challenge the very foundation of the world they stand in—and people will do a lot to defend their world view.

The last thing is, if it works and it’s cheap and affordable, are we very directly threatening the pharmaceutical companies and the whole industry as it stands?

How did the idea for Magic Pills come about?

The film kind of fell into my life and I just suddenly knew I needed to make it. I met Dr Gustavo Bracho, an immunologist from the Finlay Institute, a Cuban vaccine manufacturer that was faced with a deadly epidemic of leptospirosis in three eastern provinces of Cuba. They developed a homeopathic medicine and used it to treat 2.3 million people and were remarkably successful in stopping the epidemic in only two weeks. The following year there was an increase in incidence of almost 27% around Cuba, but in the intervened areas there was a reduction of 84%, which was below historical levels of the disease.

This is evidence for homeopathy on a massive scale, but I knew that the Finlay Institute’s story wasn’t going to get told. They were being turned down by medical journals without proper scientific reasoning, and the only journal that would publish their work was Homeopathy. I decided I wanted to make the film, so I contacted the Finlay Institute and they gave me exclusive access to the story.

The pharmacy at Dr Prasanta Banerji’s Homeopathic Research Foundation
The pharmacy at Dr Prasanta Banerji’s Homeopathic Research Foundation

At the time I was also going through my own doubts and wondering how much of my work was placebo. I felt like, if it’s not really doing what I think it’s doing and I’m not really benefiting people, then why am I bothering and wasting my life on it? Part of that also helped get me on this journey. I wanted to get a deeper understanding of homeopathy and whether it’s really a placebo or not.

Do you feel differently about homeopathy now?

I think the things I witnessed over the course of making this film very dramatically changed the way I feel about homeopathy. When we were at the Banerji clinic (Dr Prasanta Banerji’s Homeopathic Research Foundation) in Kolkata, we could talk to any of the 1,200 people a day who came into the clinic. Their stories were unbelievable. There were things I saw in Africa and Cuba too. You see it over and over again, people being cured from things that Western medicine finds difficult to treat. It’s hard not to believe.

The children of Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Mandir, an orphanage in Hyderabad, India
The children of Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Mandir, an orphanage in Hyderabad, India

There’s still a long way to go in the science of homeopathy, but we have a huge clinical repository and so many cases. It’s time to put some weight behind that.

How has Magic Pills been received?

It’s been mostly well received, but I’ve had a few people who feel the film gives too much airplay to the sceptics. However, I felt it was important to be able to show their perspective and speak to it. Also, I didn’t want to make a propaganda film. I wanted to make a film that could make people come out of the experience and think, “Maybe there’s more to this than I’ve been told; I’m going to do some research”. And I’ve seen a lot of that.

We had a sceptical film critic attend a screening in Mexico, but at the end of the film his review was actually quite kind. His conclusion was, if this information is true then it does warrant more research, which was excellent. So I think we’re opening minds and we’re letting people know there’s a lot more to the story.

What was the most difficult aspect of making the film?

I think this was one of the hardest endeavours I’ve ever taken on in my life. The film industry is very difficult to navigate and I teamed up with a couple of people who did not have the best interests of me or the film in mind and sent me down a path which lost me a lot of time. But, aside from that, learning every aspect as a producer and a director, and understanding story structure, camera work and editing, was fascinating but a lot of work. I did a course on directing a documentary; I joined the Documentary Organisation of Canada and did a lot of their workshops; I went to conferences and met a lot of amazing people who really supported me and mentored me. It was a fantastic experience on so many levels.

How are you getting Magic Pills out there?

We’ve been invited to four different film festivals where the film has screened: Sedona, LA, Mexico, and Amsterdam. The next step is community screenings. We’re encouraging people to sign up to host the film in their community, which could be their ten closest friends or a theatrical screening for the general public.

The pharmacy at the Banerji clinic
The pharmacy at the Banerji clinic

There is a small licensing fee, but the hosting can be used as a fundraiser for their organisation and the money will go to further advocacy work for homeopathy. We’ve had about 70 screening requests so far, and the film has already been shown in Slovakia, Finland and Israel. I’m also working with distributors in North America and Germany, as well as an international agent who is going to sell Magic Pills to different distributors and broadcasters around the world.

What’s next for you?

I’m working to build a social impact campaign based on the film, which means building a website, building communities, getting feedback as the film screens, and being able to start creating advocacy and social acts. We’re looking for people interested in volunteering with us.

Ananda on set
Ananda on set

I think we need to start acting in a way similar to how the sceptic groups do, which includes lobbying and letter writing campaigns, and being more vocal about the freedom to choose what kind of healthcare you want to have.

To find out more about Magic Pills, visit www.magicpillsmovie.com.

* Nanoparticles are very tiny particles between 1 and 100 nanometres (nm) in size