Raw Opium (2011)
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Raw Opium: Pain, Pleasure, Profits travels around the world and through time to witness the battles fought over the narcotic sap of the opium poppy.

The feature film version was screened for over a year in select Canadian and American cities, accompanied by lively panel discussions with special guests who explored the issues the film raised. The two-parter was broadcast to millions in over 30 territories worldwide and was featured on PBS NewsHour as part of The Economist Film Project.


The raw material for heroin, opium is a substance with tremendous power to both ease pain and destroy lives as it fuels a vast illegal trade larger than the economies of many nations.

Raw Opium travels the world to profile diverse players in the opium game: an opium master in southeast Asia, a UN drug enforcement officer on the Afghan border, a former Indian government Drug Czar, and two people who confront the reality of drug addiction on a daily basis: a Portuguese street worker and a crusading Vancouver doctor.

The film reveals how a beautiful flower plays a pivotal role – not just in the lives of those who grow, manufacture and use it – but also in the increasingly tense sphere of international relations. In the process, Raw Opium challenges assumptions about addiction and the War on Drugs.


The film’s researcher, Scott Calbeck was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Research in 2013.