Canadian Hopes Grass Makes the Cut at Festival

Canadian Hopes Grass Makes the Cut at Festival
Posted by FoM on February 10, 2000 at 11:56:14 PT
By Craig Macinnis
Source: Calgary Herald 
At a Beck concert at Maple Leaf Gardens last weekend, Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann was offered a toke on a fellow fan's marijuana cigarette. "The guy next to me turned and asked: "Do you partake?" Mann recalls with a giggle. "I thought: "If you only knew."
What the joint-proffering Beck fan didn't realize was his concert neighbour is one of Canada's foremost researchers on cannabis-related themes. Mann spent the past four years compiling archival material and rare footage for his feature-length documentary, Grass, a pop-culture-laced history of marijuana prohibition from the early 1900s to present day. A hit at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival, Grass has its European premiere Thursday at the 50th Berlin Festival, where the 90-minute pot opus has been selected as the opening film of the cutting-edge Panorama series."Berlin is one of the most important film festivals in the world," says Mann, who will attend the German screenings - four in all - with associate producer Marc Glassman, art director Paul Maurides, mixer Keith Elliot and editor Robert Kennedy."The spotlight is definitely on us. This is where we hope to sell Grass (to film distributors) around the world. Grass is already targeted for a major North American theatrical release with 30 prints set for dispersal across the United States and Canada beginning in late May, including a premier in New York City. A soundtrack album, available on Mercury Records, will coincide with the film's spring launch.The 41-year-old Mann marshalled a counter-culture Who's Who to build his exhaustive collage of American drug laws, government propaganda, pot-themed tunes, vintage movie reels and public service announcements. He fondly describes his antic narrative as pot's answer to the 1982 anti-nukes documentary, Atomic Cafe.Mark Mothersbaugh, former lead singer of new wave legends Devo, contributed original music to the opening and closing credits, while noted hemp activist Woody Harrelson volunteered his services as narrator. Meanwhile, the stoner-culture graphic that swirl and turn through the opening segment were designed by Paul Mavrides of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers fame.Even Bob Dylan chipped in, offering use of his classic Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35.Mann eagerly looks forward to the screenings in Germany, where marijuana laws are considerably more relaxed."The police there are tolerant towards marijuana smokers," says Mann. "And I'm looking forward to an audience that gets it." When Grass screened last fall at festivals in Halifax and Vancouver, Mann says several film-goers "were toking up right in the theatre." While his documentary doesn't explicitly endorse marijuana use, it presents a strong case for leniency and decriminalization. Mann says in the United States alone, 600,000 people were arrested last year on marijuana-related charges.While the role of the documentary filmmaker is one of long hours and little acclaim, festivals like Berlin afford a rare celebrity pedestal for committed cineastes like Mann.In Europe, he is an acknowledged master of the documentary form. His earlier films, Comic Book Confidential (1989) and Twist (1992) both screened at Berlin. His work has also been shown in Cannes. "I have a great time whenever I travel to the European film festivals," he says. "You feel like a rock star, they treat you so well there." Mann, who gave up tobacco cigarettes a few years back, has only one fear about his week in Germany."What I'm really afraid of is taking up smoking again," he sighs. "In Berlin, they have these beautiful women dressed up in cowboy outfits. Marlboro girls, handing out cigarettes for free." Published: February 9, 2000Copyright: 2000 Calgary HeraldNews Article Courtesy Of MapInc. Article:Marijuana Documentary a Drag for Filmmaker Articles From MapInc. - New! News Article On Canada:
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