Interview with Hamilton Morris, filmmaker behind NZAMBI: documentary on Haitian zombie phenomenon


17 Responses to “Interview with Hamilton Morris, filmmaker behind NZAMBI: documentary on Haitian zombie phenomenon”

  1. mkultra says:

    I’m glad the guy is having an interesting career. I remember him as a kid in that Apple “switch” campaign. His spot didn’t achieve the cult status of his friend Ellen Feiss’ spot, but then, he wasn’t loaded up on nyquil or whatever it was that made her seem so stoned.

  2. White Rabbit says:

    I beg to differ. The Zombie isn’t a vodka drink, it’s made with rum. You can get them at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco. That reminds me of a gag from a Ritz Brothers movie. Two of the brothers walk up to a bar. One of them says, “Two zombies, barkeep!” The bartender replies, “I can see that. What’ll you have?”

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      In my experience, the Zombie is a most appropriately named beverage, as the name can be accurately used to describe people who have imbibed a few of them. And very few of them, at that.

      If you turn somebody into a zombie (by whatever means), do you say that you have zombified them? Or can you just say that you’ve zombed them?

      “To zomb” or “to zombify”: that is the lexicographical question.

  3. pato pal ur says:

    Morris is not the most popular guy on this site. He appeared on here not long ago in a clip interviewing a psychedelic chemist and was the object of near-universal derision by BB commenters. FWIW I thought he was amusing and memorable though.

  4. jm says:

    Sounds like an interesting revisitation.

    As a college student around that time “Serpent and the Rainbow” was a refreshing injection of gonzo-like explorer action into my neuroscience studies. It was also one of those works that somehow seemed to become instantly controversial. After working a mention of it into a rounds lecture question I got an amusingly overblown and agitated smackdown by a neurology professor. Good times.

    Later, while working in Japan I naturally sought out the demon fugu, only to find it was less “adventure eating” than quick lunch. Which is not dis-similar to the situational aspect of “Zombies” that Davis documented, (and noted above by Mr. Morris) and perhaps one of the reasons that his fantastic anthropology work was sometimes dissed by a few people brandishing “hardscience” nametags.

    BTW, my copy of that book is from 1985, with the paperback @1987. Only 25 years, rather than 30?

  5. feedbackart says:

    Word to the wise: stay away from tetrodotoxin. I had a newt which secreted the same stuff which made zombies of old: tetrodotoxin. Having splashed a bit on a cutting board while washing his bowl, I washed the cutting board thoroughly before chopping an onion for guacamole. I at the guacamole and spent the next 5 hours wondering if I would live, and had poison control on the line for the first 45 minutes. Lips, numb and swolen; throat, barely able to swallow; ataxia, you bet; tingly fingers and toes, uhuh. It has been three years and I still get the numbing lips whenever I eat a cucumber, go figure. Just stay away from California Newts and Fugu. Believe me, the line between zombie and death is a narrow margin.

  6. Keneke says:

    “He’s a legitimate human being which is rare.”


  7. Jerm says:

    Ok, seeing as how my previous comment, the one agreeing with anon #6′s sentiments, got lost in the “ether”; I’ll take a stab at one quote that characterizes what I find offensive about this guy.

    “It’s appealing to say, “Oh, I’ll go to this ancient shaman. He’s an ancient man. He comes from an ancient primitive culture that understands these metaphysical things.” But of course they don’t, anymore than you or I do. They’re just people. They don’t possess any sacred knowledge that you or I don’t have.”

    Alright, I agree, it appears that he’s taking a shot at the “noble savage” idea (and I’m fine with that line of questioning) but then he goes and adds that last point. “they don’t possess any sacred knowledge that you or I don’t have”. Actually they do. Just as he (Morris) possesses knowledge, of a sort, that the “ancient man from an ancient primitive society” does not. I’m not sure what his academic background is outside of what sounds like some chemistry, but he needs to get off the “science is the only truth” wagon and appreciate the fact that other cultures will have drastically different interpretations of the world, and therefore different knowledges and understandings than we in the “west” do. This isn’t noble savage worship, this is simply keeping our hubris in check while acknowledging that we in the rational west don’t have the monopoly on “truth” and “real” knowledge. This isn’t science bashing either. It’s more a matter of coming to grips with the multiplicity of ways in which to see and interpret the world. Wade Davis comes across as if he understands this, this kid does not.

    *of course I’m speaking in generalities here. Perhaps in his experiences with “shamans”, etc. he only came across hacks. Or perhaps he misinterpreted them. But in general I think his claims are shaky at best.

  8. llazy8 says:

    You’re telling me I sat through a 6-video series just to watch a hipster get bunked? And for a grand, I might say. Lots and lots of rattling on that door lock, a looooooooong ‘door lock ritual’. Then one thousand smackeroos. Christ.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I don’t dislike shamans, I dislike the idea that we are somehow not equipped to take the drug on our own, that we need to refer to a guy who is, like, primitive from a poor country who will then tell us how to do drugs because our tainted American minds are somehow incapable of conceptualizing the psychedelic experience. And you have to have some guy who doesn’t know anything about us, or our culture, or who we are, tell us how to experience a drug. It makes no sense at all.

    How ironic then, that you go to his country, and try to analyze his culture and his experience. What a jackass. All he can tell you is what he’s been taught, and you might learn something about his culture if you listened to him.

    I’m not even going to start addressing the “primitive from a poor country” concept, because I think my head might explode.

    • jetfx says:

      You misunderstand his “primitive from a poor country” remark, because in context he is criticizing the new age viewpoint of seeing them as noble savages who are more in tune with the spiritual than “our tainted American minds.”

  10. tetra says:

    I watched the entire thing, it’s fucking amazing. Unless you are a lonely dude in the midwest who spends all their time complaining about “Hipsters” on the internet.

    There is something so sad to me about reading peoples long comments arguing with points never made, Jerm clearly did not watch the series. In the interview Morris is talking about two different things, though he seems dismissive of certain ayahuasca shamans prescribing methods to trip, in NZAMBI he is never dismissive of the voodoo rituals – just watch the entire series, nor does he have “a science is the only way” attitude, he talks about this in the end of the series.

    But if it makes you feel less bad about yourself to pretend he said it and argue with something that never happened, go for it.

    • llazy8 says:

      Lady. Lady in South America. Lady who’s been offered typhoid-curing potions in Cuban tenements, money and love spells by Bolivian witches, and laments to jesus my name in the USA. I’m sure he had a lot of fun on his vacation, and I would probably like talking to the kid over 15 dollar mate-lattes in New York, but as someone who’s been hit up for money too in similar situations, I couldn’t get past how at BOTH meetings with both bokurs, the kid’s wishes to possess one of the most guarded secret concoctions in the world were made known, and ¡poof! the guys were like, “oh, well looksie right here; I just happen to have some sitting on the ground in arms’ reach”. I liked Hammilton’s interview w/ BB quite a lot, however, as I tend to appreciate anyone who’s traveled and had experiences like these to process. But I think those Haitian guys gave him the shaft. I’ve been bunked before, too. On Hammilton’s island. So go easy on the assumptions, Tetra.

    • Jerm says:

      Fair enough, I did not watch the series (I don’t recall even suggesting that I did but whatever…) What I took issue with is how this guy was portrayed in the interview. And contrary to your claim, I don’t actually feel bad about myself, nor the comments I made. In fact I continue to stand by them. If I’m ever inspired to watch this series then yes, I might change my opinion. But until then I’ll stick to the interview (which in my mind probably portrays his thought/feelings more clearly than a video production would). My issue with him is that, in this interview, he comes across as a person who has a limited understanding or appreciation of the cultures and world views he enters, but rather than acknowledging this he instead appears to take the position that his upbringing, in his culture, with his (it’s) world view, is equipment enough for him to decipher the mysteries and “language” of another culture. This is what comes across in the subtext, and is a notion I find absurd.


  11. stephenhero says:

    My favorite analysis of the TTX potion so far comes from my buddy Chuck. Chuck is a middle aged comedy writer guy, possible depressive. He said he would definitely consider taking the zombie potion if it meant sitting out a five spot.

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