Stepping Into The Fire – Review

“Stepping Into The Fire” (2011) is documentary dedicated to ayahuasca healing.  Unlike most films–which feature notable psychonauts–this film captures the experiences of several common westerners.  The story focuses on the life of Roberto Velez, a prominent New York Stock Exchange trader who left a self destructive path of greed and success, toward a lifestyle dedicated to changing the world.

Ravaged by working long hours, Velez, reached a low–he experienced weight gain, depression, high stress levels and it also began to take a toll on his family.  Velez’s dedication to success stemmed from a sour childhood experience with his fathers side of the family.  Velez committed himself to creating the perfect family and as a result, nothing would get in the way of his success.

This all changed after his half-brother, whom lived in Peru, attempted suicide, by drinking water with diluted rat poison. It was this moment where Velez got in touch with his spiritual side and prayed for god’s help.  Roberto made a promise to repay god’s Peruvian children, in return for his brothers health.  Miraculously, his brother lived, so Velez fulfilled his promise and came back to Peru with a generous donation to the local community.

Unfortunately for Valez, he lost of his two best friends to suicide .  Unbeknownst to him, he also later found out that his wife’s father committed suicide.  He heard about ayahuasca from one of these friends, but at the time, he didn’t really care to learn about the plant medicine.  Shimbre Shamanic Center.

While in Peru, he decided to follow the guide of Shaman Mancoluto and drink ayahuasca.  Ayahuasca spoke to Velez and instructed him to change the world.  Velez later utilizes his fortunes to construct a very beautiful healing center called Shimbre Shamanic Center.  It has since closed. Please see the notes below. 

This film is about the journey of several U.S. citizens and their findings from the plant medicine, ayahuasca.  The film also has sage comments from Mancoluto. It is an inspiring film, that offers a lot of insight to what’s wrong with modern society and pervious social movements such as the 60s.

 It should be noted that in September of 2012, there was a death at the center where Mancoluto and two others were arrested for hiding the body of an 18 year old that died from the ayahuasca brew. Click the first two links for the news report on the center.

kyle nolan

The third link is a public statement by that says, “we believe this sacred medicine was administered by an irresponsible practitioner who did not follow the ancient traditional practice of staying with the seeker or student to insure physical and spiritual safety.”

Statement from Kyle Nolen’s dad, Sean Nolan (courtesy of the comment section of the public statement)

“If you haven’t heard, shaman Mancoluto was given 3 years probation by the Peru justice system for burying my son secretly in the jungle, lying to Kyle’s mother and sister when they went down there twice to find him, and then we raised money ($9000) to bring Kyle home to California to bury him again.

If I were Justice–and I have to say without command of all the facts yet with a father’s grieving–I would say Mancoluto was out of his league running this million dollar Shimbre center with a slick film produced by Rob Velez, Stepping Into The Fire, which along with the Shimbre website, since closed, promised a safe experience, with participants always attended to during the ayahuasca experience. There was no mention that ayahuasca participants were sent out into the jungle alone or largely alone, which accounts for why Kyle’s body was not found in a ditch for 24 hours, unreported, because dragged off and buried like a carcass in the jungle.

I can’t say what kind of heart Rob Velez has, but his lack of attention to this shaman Mancoluto he appointed to run Shimbre Center and the warnings he had been given over two years about this shaman before my son’s death speaks to irresponsibility on his part which led to the death of my son.

I want Rob Velez to step up, acknowledge his irresponsibility, and put in place with his money oversight or registry of these shamanic centers so potential clients (and their parents) have real information about what’s going on with these shamanic centers. Tell people, which we weren’t told, that Mancoluto believed himself a 5th generation Martian and after sending participants out into the jungle could climb the trellis into his raised hut and sit on a bank of batteries to watch Peruvian soap operas while claiming Martian ESP to keep everyone in the jungle safe.

A death in the Shimbre jungle was bound to happen under these circumstances. I don’t want this to happen again.


Note: I saw the film before I knew of the news.  As with and the community, I completely agree.  From what I observed in the film, the center seemed a little un-authentic.  Having journeyers sleep in secluded tents or take walks in the jungle, by themselves, seems odd.  I didn’t see anything about Icaros in the film at all either.  I also didn’t see any caretakers along side the seeker. Rest in Peace, Kyle!

Rating: 7/10 – Nothing against the actual work that went into creating the film. It was a solid piece of work.