New documentary explores the many impacts hot peppers have on the world

Eric Raine explored three continents for his new film "Crazyhot." (Photos courtesy of Michael Scher)

How do you spell “chile”? A new documentary directed by Eric Raine dives into this and the many ways that hot chile peppers have impacted the world.

Raine’s new film “Crazyhot” takes you on a journey across three continents to explore the many uses of hot chile peppers. When starting on this project, Raine stumbled across some studies that he was surprised to find were not widely known to the public.

“I found these studies that looked at using capsaicin (the active component in chile peppers) to cure cancer,” said Raine. “At first I thought it was some people trying to make money or push their own health products, but I ended up finding more peer-reviewed studies about the subject and was surprised that this wasn’t more common knowledge.”

In “Crazyhot,” in addition to exploring the medical elements of hot chile peppers, Raine interacts with leading farmers, scientists and food alchemists, as well as the community of devoted “chileheads” who have formed a cult-like following to the chile pepper industry. One thing that Raine did not expect was some of the “self-made drama” that exists between the pepper growers.

“One of the first phone conversations I had with a man in San Diego, and within the first two minutes he was telling me debates and feuds he was in with other people in the industry – it was a real eye-opener,” said Raine. “There’s also the issue of the Carolina Reaper. It’s recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, but a lot of people think it’s a copy of the 7 Pot Primo – you kind of have to take a stand.”

Prior to making this film, Raine wasn’t the biggest fan of spicy food. However, since starting the filmmaking process for “Crazyhot,” Raine has grown varieties of hot peppers at his home in California, made his own hot sauce, and tried a 7 Pot Primo.

“It was new and bizarre, I grew up in Michigan. I don’t think I even knew what an avocado was until I was 19,” Raine said. “After doing some traveling and seeing how chiles are incorporated in other people’s eating habits, I started to add some in. I do have sriracha in the fridge. I like hot sauce and hot peppers. But the daredevil in me didn’t come out until I started this project.”

“Crazyhot” officially released online on April 29 and the ending was originally cut with film festival audiences in mind. However, given the circumstances of the pandemic, Raine and his team had to change their plans.

“We originally planned to have samples for viewers to taste at screenings around the world,” said Raine. “Looking at the film’s ending, which was originally cut for festival audiences, we decided it still worked and didn’t re-cut it.”

Raine hopes that those who see “Crazyhot” will throw whatever fears they have about hot peppers and give one a try.

“There’s this line in the film, ‘You think you’re going to die, and you will always be fine.’ I hope those who see the film step outside their comfort zone and try a hot pepper,” said Raine.

“Crazyhot” is available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime and Vimeo. Check out the trailer for “Crazyhot” below:

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