Grass, narrated by actor/activist Woody Harrelson, takes a highly spirited and innovative look into one of America's most deeply rooted cultural myths: the evils of "pot", "cannabis", "weed", "dubich", "doobie", "shrub", o... more »r whatever man. From the story of America's first drug czar, to the absurd scare tactics behind propaganda films like Reefer Madness, and Marijuana: Threat or Menace, director Ron Mann (Comic Book Confidential, Twist) poignantly and humorously exposes the social, political and economic facts behind this enduring weed, and the extent to which it has profoundly shaped our culture.« less
"Yes, this documentary is an unashamed pro salute to the spidery green hoppy-plant. It is also a very good one, and spotlights the most ludricrous arguments against decriminilization of the wacky weed. This film explains how early 20th century lawmakers used every tool from racial and ethnic prejudice, intimidation, exaggeration, and censorship in order to portray marijuana as an extremely dangerous drug. There is fascinating film footage covering New York's Mayor LaGuardia's unbiased six year study on the effects of marijuana, and the subsequent efforts of narcotic agent Anslinger's efforts to silence the findings.Art direction by underground art legend Paul Mavrides, and visual editing by David Biedny deserves mention because this flick is awesome to watch. The animation and graphics riddling the video throughout are a very hep work of art in itself.In summary, this video is propaganda for fans of grass. If you want a truly balanced general view of drug laws in the United States, look for The History Channel's recent documentary series. But whether you are pro or anti pot, and are focused enough to analyze both sides of the argument, this film is mandatory viewing for the documented facts and the newsreel footage alone, some of which I have not seen elsewhere."
Hey dude, pass the..er- videotape!
D. Hartley | Seattle, WA USA | 11/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Unique, well-produced documentary dealing (no pun intended) with the history of marijuana criminalization in the United States. Far from a dry history lesson, the film takes a Michael Moore-style approach-building its own "counter-myth" by exposing the hypocrisy of the anti-marijuana propaganda machine over the years, from the 1930's infamous "Reefer Madness" movie to the Reagan administration's sophmoric "Just Say No" media campaign of the 1980's. There is also a fascinating on-going tally of all the tax money the government's various law-enforcement agencies have wasted attempting to eradicate marijuana usage since the days of Elliott Ness. The film's masterful use of well-chosen period music, hilariously ironic film clips and outstanding sound editing recalls the award winning 80's documentary about the Cold War, "The Atomic Cafe". Actor Woody Harrelson (who's had his own infamous, herb-related off-screen legal problems) does a bang-up job with the narration. Even if you disagree with the politics, you're likely to find this one quite informative and "highly" (er-sorry!) entertaining."
Grass DVD Review
Xam | nyc | 02/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This awesome documentary looks at the prohibition against cannabis/hemp/marijuana in the US. The movie is composed entirely of historical footage, and chronicles the beginning of the war against marijuana up to the present. It shows the true racist beginnings of the first laws against marijuana. There's alot of footage of Harry Anslinger's massive propaganda campaign, which is truly laughable now. The movie is quite funny, this is because all the government propaganda against pot has been so ridiculous and exaggerated over the years ("If you smoke it, you will go INSANE and KILL people!"). The movie shows how the public and media's attitude changed about pot, but the government failed to respond to ever-growing legalization demands. You're also presented the monetary figures on the war against marijuana over the years, it increases dramatically (till this very day). Mann picked the best parts of old films and newsreels, and used nice collage techniques to link them together, which makes the movie very enjoyable to watch. Along with the incredible soundtrack, which is mostly old pot songs with some cool original tracks (like the opening credit music). There are even some really cool animations, and to top it off, Woody Harrelson does a nice job of narrating.The DVD includes a few extras, but nothing to get very excited about. The creator of Grass, Ron Mann, has a short interview where he comes across as being very stoned. A deleted opening sequence is also included, which is interesting but not that great. I was excited about the High Times magazine gallery, thinking it was gonna be every single High Times cover ever printed! Unfortunately they only included about 25 covers, which is disappointing (they could have easily included every cover). NORML provided a state-by-state marijuana legal reference guide (you can choose which state to read about), this turned out to be the best extra feature. High-definition transfer for 16x9 televisions and dolby digital is always nice too. Overall I really love this DVD, mainly because the movie is so great. The DVD picture and sound quality is good, and the extras are decent. I HIGHLY recommend picking this one up."
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 03/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an amazing, fascinating, visually stimulating documentary about the campaign that American politicians and propagandists waged against marijuana in the 20th century. It's shocking to see just how many billions of dollars had been spent on this so-called "war" by the end of the Nineties. All that fuss over a harmless plant that scientific studies have shown really is not the dangerous evil drug many people are led to believe it is. There are lots of great clips from vintage movies, commercials, press conferences, and concert performances to illustrate all of the points being talked about. For someone with an open mind, this could go a long way towards dispelling a lot of the myths about marijuana. One by one, this documentary goes through the myths (e.g., it's a gateway drug, it will make you into a sexual predator, it'll make you lose your mind, it will make you fly into violent rages, it will wreak havoc on your brain) and counters them, using scientific studies and conversations with people who actually used the drug. Of course, the people making up the anti-marijuana propaganda and scare tactics had never actually smoked pot themselves and had no idea what they were talking about. And like with all members of the old guard who protest against what young people are doing, a lot of it could have very well stemmed from how when they were young people, they had fewer choices about their lives and less opportunity to do these things. It could have been jealousy that their children suddenly had much more personal freedom to do so many things that were considered taboo and a shameful social stigma in days of yore. We also see how the pot-smoking culture changed from decade to decade; early in the 20th century, they were mainly Mexican immigrants as opposed to how most of them in the Sixties were hippies and university students. And indeed, the campaign against marijuana started because of racist nativist xenophobic fears about the Mexican immigrants coming into the country and bringing a strange way of life and a new cigarette with them. The establishment thought that if white people started smoking it too, they would "devolve" into people like the Mexicans, who were thought to be inferior. This documentary presents facts that get the message across without sounding preachy. Anyone with a sense of social justice should feel outraged that so much fuss has been made over what is really just a simple little plant, and that anyone who is caught smoking or possessing it is treated like a moral degenerate and socially dangerous criminal."
A powerful teaching tool!
Valjean | Salem, Ma United States | 07/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The thesis that Ron Mann presents the viewer with in this well-crafted and colorful documentary is: that Government has always profited from laws against Marijuana; and, ergo, has refused to legalize the drug in spite of the fact that it has (arguably) been medically proven to be less harmful and addictive than alcohol. That thesis is examined thoroughly from a historical vantage point and addressed brilliantly with qualitative data, (mainly consisting of historical film footage and historical facts). Although, at times, the presentation of statistical data is somewhat dubious (Specifically, I would deduct one-half star for Mann's consistent referral to Government spending in the general "War on Drugs" as the "War on Marijuana").
I agree with most of the reviews of this film and would add that whether the viewer's position is pro-legalization or anti-legalization there is a lot of insight to be gleaned from knowing the history of Marijuana legislation in America. I would highly recommend this film for college professors concerned with teaching students about either: a) the role of political and economic power in the creation of a body of laws; or b) the power of government-sponsored propaganda with regard to the creation of sub-groups of social deviants. There is also a lot to be learned about the making of a documetary from examining the presentation of the thesis. The most laudable aspect of this documentary, which is narrated by Woody Harrelson, is its historical "linearity" in presenting the events that eventally led to status of Marijuana in today's society. The documentary begins by showing us some footage from the early 1900's that seems to confirm that the earliest attempts to criminalize pot-smoking in America came about largely as the result of predjudice and fear toward Mexican immigrants to the US. Footage from the 1920's and 1930's seems to confirm that the government had effectively mastered the power to control other disenfranchised segments of the population (such as African Americans) indirectly through the passage of laws aimed at behaviors associated with those segments. Likewise, footage from the 1950's and 1960's indicates that the pot laws similarly geared to target first "communists" and then anti-war hippies. Footage from more recent decades seems to confirm that although by the 1970's most of the American popualtion were aware that pot was generally an innocuous distraction from reality, the demonization of grass had become so embedded in American culture that legalization was not an option. While the presentation of the 1900-1950 data from the film is often punctuated by scare-film clips (ie: clips from "Reefer Madness", etc.) which provide the viewer with some chuckles, with regard to the substatiative content of the film, there are some particularly powerful moments that can not be disregarded. First, there are film clips taken from 1960's medical experiments, which actually show the effects of marijuana on experimental groups to be harmless. Second, evidence is presented that seems to confirm that the results of these experiements were systemically disregarded by lawmakers (especially by Richard Nixon who, in spite of medical evidence, decided to step-up efforts to punish marijuana criminals). Finally, Mann's presentation of legislation dictating the use of cannabis, accentuates the progressively counterintuitive body of law related to the drug.In sum, although the film was produced by NORML, this is not the "government bash-fest" that I would have expected. While I otherwise liked the review, I strongly take exception to the reviewer who claimed that is "...this video is propaganda for fans of grass...". The tone of the documentary is suprisingly objective most of the time and highly academic in its presentation of historical fact and lawmaking. It really doesn't even come across as pushing a political agenda - much less as "ramming one down your throat". Show it in the classroom and see what the students think."