San Diego Professor's Documentary Explores Use of Ancient Medicine | NBC 7 San Diego

San Diego Professor's Documentary Explores Use of Ancient Medicine

Short Debuts at San Diego Latino Film Festival

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    Photograph from Pu Ruka Lawen
    A still from the short documentary, "Pu Ruka Lawen," to be screened at the 2016 San Diego Latino Film Festival.

    What if your doctor prescribed maqui berries to treat inflammation instead a pharmaceutical drug?

    It's an idea the creators of a documentary debuting at the San Diego Latino Film Festival Sunday would like you to think about.

    The short film, called "Pu Ruka Lawen," shows how the ancient medicine of the indigenous Mapuche people of Chile is being used in the mainstream medical system there. A non-profit cooperative operates the innovative program, which is funded by the Chilean government.

    The documentary was produced by Proyecto ACCESO, a legal skills training and rule of law public education program at San Diego's California Western School of Law.

    "I thought we'd do something to celebrate what's already going on in Latin America," said James Cooper, Associate Professor of Law at Cal Western.

    Cooper hopes the documentary will show people in the Unites States how they can learn from indigenous people about integrating nautral remedies, or what's known as Traditional Knowledge, into our health care system. He calls the approach in Chile holistic, and says it treats people as part of a bigger universe, rather than just individuals.

    The idea emerged from research Cooper has been doing for many years while running the Chile Summer Program. Cooper first went to Chile 20 years ago, training the the country's first indigenous public defenders.

    "It's a way to showcase what works," Cooper said, "This is a happy story, a story of cooperation and collaboration."

    His long-time collaborator on Latin American programs, Sebastian Vives, directed the documentary.

    Cooper told NBC 7 San Diego his long term plan is to produce a series of documentaries to teach others about the millions of indigenous people who he believes are doing wonderful things around the world.

    "Those things need to be celebrated, not marginalized. A little respect is due," Cooper said.

    The screening of "Pu Ruka Lawen" is at the AMC Fashion Valley at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, March 13. The documentary is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

    The 2016 San Diego Latino Film Festival runs through March 20.  You can learn more about tickets and and the festival film schedule on the festival's website.