GRASS, directed and produced by Ron Mann, written by Solomon Vesta, with Woody Harrelson. 80 minutes. A Sphinx production. A.
GRASS, directed and produced by Ron Mann, written by Solomon Vesta, with Woody Harrelson. 80 minutes. A Sphinx production. A Lions Gate release. Opens Friday (June 16) at the Bloor. For times, see Rep Cinemas, page 105. Rating: NNN
Grass is Ron Mann’s first film as a director in nine years, and it’s an earnest and straightforward history of U.S. drug laws narrated by noted hemp enthusiast Woody Harrelson.
Solomon Vesta’s script pays appropriate attention to the role of veteran anti-drug lobbyist Harry Anslinger, and the film features a lot of classic footage. (At this point in my filmgoing life, though, I must say I’m a little tired of Reefer Madness clips.)
On the other hand, one has to wonder what Mann’s been up to. Eight years to get to a film that’s, in essence, a straightforward clip compilation? On earlier films like Poetry In Motion and Comic Book Confidential he actually went out and shot new footage.
But given the fact that, as the film mentions, more people have gone to jail during the Clinton administration for marijuana-related offenses than ever before, there is a need for a new documentary about American drug policy.
It may not be necessary to remind us that the first anti-marijuana laws in the U.S. were motivated by racism, but it is important to say that the current drug laws and their enforcement are institutionally racist. Why else treat crack cocaine (a “ghetto” drug) more harshly than regular cocaine, which is generally thought of as a “white” drug?