Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four part series of reviews for films in the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, set for Jan. 9-12, in Nevada City and Grass Valley.
Hemp is marijuana. No it isn’t. That’s pretty much the debate in a nutshell, and the closest the “hemp is marijuana” side can get to the facts is an entrenched guilt by association.
We’re talking industrial hemp. Marijuana drips with psycho-active THC. If a drug dealer sold industrial hemp, he’d trash his drug dealer reputation (20 percent THC for getting high; 3/10 of 1 percent in industrial hemp).
The film “Bringing It Home” carries a well-crafted “Hemp is hope” message. It reveals seriously silly obstacles to the profound contributions industrial hemp could make to America’s future if it were legal to grow it. We can and do legally import hemp products.
Debate legalizing marijuana elsewhere. We’re talking industrial hemp.
We’re talking jobs for farmers. We’re talking a range of American jobs in clothing and accessories, rope and paper, building materials and insulation. We’re talking foods – foods high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp products include oils, soaps, lotions.
Growing hemp doesn’t demand pesticides the way other crops (seem to) need to. Wearing hemp and building with it doesn’t involve toxic chemicals the way other materials (seem to) need to.
The list of possibilities is compelling. The film “Bringing It Home” engages with far more than list making. For instance, a father concerned about his autistic and illness-prone daughter talks about “canary kids,” kids with more delicate, sensitive, and indicative needs that tell us something about everybody’s vulnerability.
Hemp is also a canary in the politics mine. If we can’t shake off reefer madness about industrial hemp, what chance do we have with more complicated issues for the future of our children?
Distilled from conversation with “Bringing It Home” director Linda Booker
Chuck Jaffee: Can we get past the “reefer madness” obstacle to legalizing industrial hemp in America?
Linda Booker: Though 20 states have passed or introduced legislation, federal law that lumps it with marijuana trumps state law. After close to 12 years of trying, it looks like federal law may change in two to five years.
CJ: Do you have favorite hemp products that are now routinely part of your life?
LB: I use oils, nuts, powders for the nutritional value. I prefer plant protein, and hemp is high in omega 3 fatty acids. I feed my dog hemp. It’s getting on super-food top 10 lists. Whole Foods says the market for hemp products is growing fast. Dr. Oz promotes it.
CJ: Your film talks about hemp contributing to a more sustainable world. Is “green” where the traction is for industrial hemp, or is it just good economics?
LB: It’s both; a huge part is the environmental and health benefits. The building sector is very excited about the potential for removing carbon emissions. This and the benefits of working with hemp materials is a main motivation.
CJ: Tell us one of the things you learned making “Bringing It Home.”
LB: Making documentaries, you ask what do I want a film to do. With a topical film, you ask how do I reach beyond people who are already into the issue. I wasn’t a hemp activist. I was skeptical. I had to be convinced beyond the hype. Working on this film made me more of an optimist.
More than 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln said, “Before long the most valuable of all arts, will be deriving subsistence from the smallest area of the soil. No community whose every member possesses this art can ever be the victim of oppression.” I may not have as much quote cred as old Abe, but I say, “America needs a million new farmers fast – and they have to stick with it – for us to have any chance at a better future.”
The film “Growing Cities” starts with the Lincoln quote. In the realm of smart farming for the future, this film covers familiar territory, but we need a perennial diet of good films like this. The filmmakers visit Will Allen, an exemplar of spirit and commitment. He posits 50 million new farmers.
Numbers aside, the point of the travelog “Growing Cities” is that people across the country are delving into myriad ways to plant the seeds of a sustainable farming future, especially in cities. In cities, where 80 percent of the people live, there are vacant lots, empty warehouses, rooftops, lawns, balconies. Bring on the compost.
The best community efforts, especially in disadvantaged areas, cultivate attitude. Through inclusion and mentoring, people occupy a better time and place that reaps not only healthy food, but healthier connections, including connections to a bigger picture.
“Growing Cities” wonders whether young urban dwellers will become farmers, whether they’ll stick with farming. It connects us well to a needed sensibility by the thousands that hungers to germinate by the millions.
“I do care, but I’m ignoring that I care.” In the film “GMO OMG,” a mother buckles some under the weight of finding her kids worry-free foods. This isn’t just any mother. This is the wife of the filmmaker.
Jeremy Seifert is trying to educate his wife, kids … everyone … about genetically modified organisms. He laments that “everyone was getting tired of my obsession with GMOs.” When Seifert tells a health-oriented, very veggie interviewee that 97 percent of soy is GMO, you get yet another flash of the “Oh My God” factor in this film.
Seifert’s son has a fairly adorable obsession with seeds, and this is one of many ways the film maintains a personable keel. Monsanto – a worldwide leader in corporate evil – also has an obsession with seeds. They brilliantly engineer plants that don’t produce seeds for farmers to grow more plants, besides forcing farmers to buy Monsanto seeds.
Harm from genetically modified foods is hardly settled controversy, but efforts like $45,000,000 to defeat a California proposition to label such foods as GMO causes Seifert to pose the question, “Aren’t they proud of their products?”
Can’t corporations do the marketing thing they’re so good at, boastfully promoting their Gene-tampering Modus Operandi, then watch sales soar? Shouldn’t corporations want extensive peer reviewed research on GMOs so they can better tout their commitment to healthful, world-feeding mega-profits?
If you’re familiar with the issue and especially if you aren’t, look up a flagship term of the century, the “precautionary principle” and see the film “GMO OMG.” You’ll have plenty of time left over to ignore how much you should care.
Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at www.startlets.com