Union: The Business Behind Getting High, TheReviewed By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/11/07 03:28:13
SCREENED AT THE 2007 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: So many times at film festivals I get extremely bored of the documentary films, mostly the type which include talking heads over a silent soundtrack with serious narration. Which is not to say that ALL “talking head” docs are bad, but like any good film, it just has to be done well.“The Union: The Business Behind Getting High” has many talking heads and lots of narration, but it is one of the best examples of this kind of filmmaking done absolutely right. It is what I like to see at a film festival: a documentary that I believe will provoke change in our society, get people talking, and is also an entertaining, inspiring vision that should get you out of your house and into a cinema seat.
This British-Columbia produced feature on the marijuana issue uses Vancouver as its backdrop, but doesn’t limit the scope to just our city out west. Rather, it showcases this area of the world as a branching point to a Canadian and American problem: why people are so adamant to pursue a drug that isn’t really a drug. I mean, think about it: an herbal resource that can be used medicinally and has had zero causes of death over its history. There is no proof of addiction whatsoever, If you use it recreationally, all it gives you is the giggles and a possible cause to raid the fridge or the local 7-11.
I think one of my favourite quotes ever on the substance after the man at the 1998 Olympics had his gold medal taken away after testing positive for the reefer: “Marijuana enhances many things, colors, flavors, sensations, but you are certainly not fucking empowered. When you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own goddamn feet. The only way it's a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big fucking Hershey bar at the end of the run.” This was said by none other than Robin Williams.
It’s amazing to see how well-researched this film is. Director Brett Harvey gets all sides to the equation, by fluently using politicians, actors, activists, law officials and nicely uses old film and video footage of political power and those nasty PSA films. This doc took two years to produce, and the work shows on screen. And yes, Tommy Chong, a Vancouver native, gets his time on screen.
The film is narrated and hosted by filmmaker Adam Scorgie, a good choice since he has a lot of strong opinion on this material and gets right into the thick of the situation. Shot on high-definition video and with a moving soundtrack underneath, the doc is well produced and has a lot of entertainment value at just how messed up our society is and how far it needs to change. Late in the film, we see the answers to all our problems when director Brett Harvey and Scorgie visit a hemp-fest down in Seattle, and we see (just like in Ron Mann’s excellent 2003 documentary “Go Further”) that hemp has more uses than just marijuana; that it can be used to produce bio-diesel, clothing and food products much better and efficiently than all the fossil fuels in the world.
Should marijuana be legalized? Absolutely. Based on this documentary and the research, articles and common knowledge, it would be insane not to. Put taxes on it, sell it in stores and restrict it to ages 18 and over. I’d go even bolder to say that cigarettes, which ARE the second largest cause of death in North America today, should be replaced by the bud. Not only think of the lives you are saving, but just think of the money that could be put into our economy and what it could be used for. It’s obvious that there are people out there who like the stuff.But the biggest joy of “The Union” is the fact that this documentary does everything right: thanks to its fantastic cinematography and great music score, it demands to be seen theatrically with an audience that hopefully will be standing outside of the cinema directly afterwards talking about it with your peers. This is the power of the medium, and I’m hoping future “issue” documentaries will be as good as this one.
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