Taking “A Leaf of Faith”: An Interview with Urban Ice Organics’ Kelly Dunn

September 29, 2018 Articles, Interview, Kratom Research, News

A lot has been written about the Mitragyna speciosa (read: kratom) plant and its alkaloids, much of it from the perspective of the opposition. When you type the word “kratom” into a search engine, you’ll invariably come across a number of articles about the proposed kratom ban or the FDA’s public warning about the dangers of kratom consumption.

What you don’t see is any references to it in pop culture. If you tune in to cable television shows, you’ll more than likely see people both young and old smoking marijuana or pouring themselves a glass of booze. These substances are perpetually treated as coping tools used in high pressure situations.

I challenge you to name an episode of Mad Men that didn’t feature excessive consumption of alcohol.

The same can be said of weed which has become almost universally accepted as an herbal panacea, with late night talk show hosts joking about it, A-list Hollywood celebrities talking openly about smoking it, and shows like Weeds and Grace and Frankie celebrating it.

This cannot be said for kratom, an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries by the natives of Southeast Asia to calm their nerves, alleviate aches and pains, and keep them energized while engaging in manual labor.

In the Western world, kratom has been demonized as a dangerous drug and government agencies have misled the public into believing that it is synthetic in nature. Pretty much the only time it is ever mentioned in the mainstream media is during a salmonella outbreak or when a kratom user is hospitalized.

Enter Kelly Dunn and the team at Urban Ice Organics, the number one growing kratom distributor in the United States. Together with fearless documentarian Chris Bell (Bigger, Stronger, Faster; Prescription Thugs) and visionary cinematographer/director David Baca, Jr., they have crafted a full-length feature film that illuminates the truth and lies behind this controversial plant.

A Leaf of Faith was acquired by distribution giant Netflix earlier this year and is now available for streaming. We had a nice chat with Mr. Dunn this week that shed even more light on this important subject.

Kratom Crazy: What was the impetus behind this project? Did the filmmakers have a background in the Kratom industry?

Kelly Dunn: Yes, the filmmakers do have a background in Kratom history. The owners of Urban Ice Organics watched a couple of documentaries from Chris Bell and knew that they had mutual friends with him and his family. With the devastation in his family, we wanted to reach out and see if we could introduce him to Kratom. We always had hoped to make a documentary because so little was known about Kratom and it was a mysterious plant, it was a cool subject for us. We had been in the industry six years prior to the beginning of the film.

K.C.: Was it always intended as a long form film? Why or why not?

K.D.: We were unsure if the film was going to be long or short. Halfway through the filming, the DEA instituted its intent to ban. They gave us 30 days until they were going to turn Kratom into a Schedule I drug. That really propelled the movie in a new direction. At that time, we knew it was going to be a long film, and even a two-part film now.

How did the Netflix deal come about? And what has Netflix brought to the table in terms of spreading the word about Kratom legislation and the like?

The Netflix deal came about by us pitching it to them. Netflix is giving access to millions and millions of viewers that we didn’t have before.

Will the film be available on DVD at some point? What might people expect in terms of deleted material/outtakes?

I don’t think the film will available on DVD. We have our own copies, but I don’t believe they will put it out on sale. I don’t think there is any money in it.

How much footage were you working with and what did that footage consist of?

We filmed for two and a half years. We filmed a lot of people, a lot of interviews, a lot of different directions that we didn’t end up going. We followed a lot of people with addiction through their recovery process. We even have footage where we reached out several months into their recovery, but we never used that footage either. This extra footage had everything- Chris took a trip to Indonesia and we have a lot of footage from there. We have a lot of footage we haven’t used.

Why was it important to release this project?

We need to get more people involved and more people aware of Kratom. They need to know the truth about Kratom because there is so much misinformation out there. A few years ago, when the state legislative body of Georgia tried to implement a bill to ban Kratom, a bunch of different companies mounted a big effort. We went down there to convene and decide how to present all our information we had gathered.

We only had a very short time to speak at the legislative hearings. All the people that we brought, doctors and other professionals (we had spent 30,000 dollars bringing people down there), were unheard. Nobody listened to anything we had to say.

At that point, we realized we needed to find a better way to voice our opinion. That was where we began the idea to create a documentary. It is important because all of the information people were presenting about Kratom was wrong. People were just lying and it was really, really hard to sit on the sidelines and watch people flat-out lie and spread misinformation.

What would you say is the most important thing for the general public to know about Kratom?

We think it is safe and we think it has something for everybody. It is one of the most effective supplements out there. We are doing a lot in the fitness industry now and people say that there are three supplements that really work: creatine (which definitely helps build muscle), caffeine (which we all know), and Kratom.

What can people do to support kratom?

The best thing you can do is buy Urban Ice, buy Urban Ice, buy Urban Ice. Support the people that support Kratom. Get a hold of the American Kratom Association, join them, donate to them. This battle requires money and those are the right people to fight it. Donate to A Leaf of Faith and support the science behind this—educate through the science.

Thanks to Kelly Dunn for his generous time and thanks to the people who support #SaveKratom. Watch A Leaf of Faith right here.

Bob Freville
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