Can a fragrance drive men to murder? In the case of Oud, it can and often does. A precious scent derived from a species of tree which is currently teetering on the verge of extinction, Oud is one of the most treasured commodities originating from the Arabian Peninsula, and its dwindling supply has only heightened the public's demand for it. The fascinating new documentary Scent from Heaven, produced by the always compelling Al Jazeera organization, investigates the sumptuous temptations and potential perils of this olfactory phenomenon.
Why is Oud so appealing? At the film's opening, some of the fragrance's most avid admirers attempt to describe an affection that's steeped in the comforts of memory. For many, the various Oud scents act as gateways to their most treasured moments of nostalgia. Some cultures use smoke from Oud incense to aid in spiritual ceremonies. Others simply enjoy the pleasures of its rich and long lasting aroma.
Oud results from a mold infection in agar trees which grow exclusively in Middle Eastern regions, and the character of its aroma varies depending upon the location of the tree and the concentration of oils in its wood. As the demand for the scent has spread throughout the Western world, and deforestation has become more prominent around the globe, these trees have fallen under the threat of extinction.
This impending endangerment has only worked to intensify demand for the scent. One kilo of average quality Oud can sell for as much as $5,000. Western companies often charge as much as $2000 for small quantities of perfume which are accented by the elusive scent.
Of course, great demand and the promise of huge profits have greased the wheel s for criminal involvement in the Oud trade. These operations are marked by police payoffs, the murderous acts of ruthless log poachers, and an assortment of Mafia-driven interests.
The filmmakers interview a series of subjects who speak to every facet of this intriguing story - from perfume designers and shop owners to conservation experts and law enforcement officials. Scent from Heaven is an eye-opening look into a thrillingly unexpected and unusual world.