Dan Mindus On Grass

Dan Mindus On Grass
Posted by FoM on June 09, 2000 at 13:19:48 PT
By Dan Mindus, NR editorial intern 
Source: National Review
Grass, Ron Mannís documentary on the legislative and cultural history of marijuana in America, had certain advantages from the outset: Woody Harrelson narrated for free, and the Ontario Film Investment Program kicked in some cash. But then a separate government agency, the Ontario Film Review Board, censored the film. Although the Boardís decision was eventually reversed, Grass will finally open in Toronto only after it finishes its brief tour at NYCís Film Forum on June 13th. 
Quick, biting, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Grass largely avoids the didactism one might expect from a leftist anti-drug-war film. No experts are interviewed. Facts and figures are sparse, and generally accompanied by the clever animation that is the filmís only original visual material. Comparing the criminalization of marijuana to Jim Crow laws (believable), McCarthyism (absurd), and Prohibition (obvious), Mann hopes to persuade by compelling the audience to apply its mainstream moral and political sentiments to his subject. But the audience in New York needed little persuasion. For them, grass is good, and conservatives not. Shots of people high and loving it, and footage of stuffy types denouncing marijuana in a ridiculous manner elicited the biggest responses. The film makes a strong conservative case against the criminilization of marijuana, but it couldnít help the occasional cheap shot against conservatives. Thus Reagan is mocked for suggesting that grass causes memory loss. Thus Nixon played on conservativesí "fear and hatred." (Footage of Tricky Dick bowling a gutter ball follows an old, preposterous anti-drug ad suggesting that marijuana ruins your bowling game. The actor, high, we are led to believe, knocks down one pin.) Grass includes the predictable (but useful) chronicling of movie censorship, the suppression of inconvenient scientific studies, the hordes jailed for nothing but a toke, and the ever-shifting Official Truth about why marijuana is so evil. The filmís real treat, however, is historical gems such as these: During the Depression, only nine states acquiesced to the fedsí insistence that they criminalize marijuana. The others resisted because of a statesí rights argument. Given the filmís documentation of recent increases in marijuana-related arrests and imprisonments, the omission of Bill Clinton is striking. He never appears on screen, and he is never mentioned. But a fishbowl of buttons outside the theater included one that read: "I smoked it, but I did not inhale." June 9, 2000 National Review 215 Lexington Avenue New York, New York 10016 212-679-7330Related Articles & Web Site:Grass The Movie - A Ron Mann Film Give Grass Green Light on Appeal of Protest Greet Ontario Ban of Grass The Movie Banned For Showing Pot-Smoking Chimps Grass : Madness! Communism! Indolence! The Works! Makes Voice Heard on History of Hemp 
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