Murder, They Planted by Thi Li, Kathy Phillips & Rose Bridges

COURSE: Pharmacy 563: Drug History, Dangerous Drugs, and Magic Bullets

MEDIUM: Video Animation

This is a student made film that explores six commonly found plants that have been used as murder weapons and have former or current medical applications. They each contain one of five phytochemicals that are known in traditional medicines and/or as modern pharmaceuticals. The film describes each plant’s taxonomy/etymology, traditional uses, pharmaceutical applications, and infamous murders or deaths. The overarching theme of the film explores the question of inherent good versus evil, or in the case of plants – medicine versus poison. The film is an artistic rendition that carries a ‘true crime’ tone. It’s an artistic rendition that brings to life the plants’ innocent and nefarious histories and features community/local actors, musicians, and media enthusiasts.

We created this film to present an engaging perspective about the relationship between humans and plants. I am a student of herbal medicine and have maintained a passionate interest in ‘traditional’/Indigenous, natural, and holistic healing practices. Naturally produced poisons found in plants/fungi that also produce ‘medicines’ embody a delicate balance of wholeness and intention. They show us that aspects of goodness (‘life’) and badness (‘death’) exist in all lifeforms, and are purposeful in their own regards. They humble us and remind us to treat plants with dignity and respect. Ultimately, they demonstrate how things that may be considered ‘bad’, which may be true in many cases, can also be transformed for ‘good’. Poisons can be medicines, if understood and respected as such. The underlying question of this film explores millenia-old practices and modern medical applications of plants. We aim to highlight the delicate balance between medicines and poisons, particularly through the presentation of plants that contain phytochemicals appropriate for both intentions. The plants we highlight are commonly found in botanic gardens, alongside roads, and in people’s own yards, despite the high potential of poisoning. The plants themselves are not illegal to grow and they are very easy to acquire. This was important because throughout this course we’ve learned about plants that became magic bullets and/or dangerous drugs that were subjected to legal stipulations and societal controversy. These plants have demonstrated deadly and/or strong hallucinogenic potential but have little to no regulation in acquisition or cultivation.

Although this film was initially created for a class assignment, it beautifully metamorphosed into a community project involving students, family members, and old colleagues. The film was written, filmed, and produced in three months on a $0 budget. It was entirely supported by everyone contributing their services, specialties, and time. In addition to submitting this film for our assignment we hosted a Red Carpet premiere at the Marquee Theater in Union South (May 21, 2022) to honor everyone who had contributed to this project and share our work with the greater community.

Thi Le – Script write, Director, Post-Production, Editor, Producer, Actress
Kathy Phillips – Art Direction, Set Design, Costuming, Prop Creation, Actress
Rose Bridges – Post-Production

CONTENT WARNING: This film includes content depicting violence, death, and suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.