DOCS, PART 1
Weed the People
The best pot doc since 2014’s The Culture High, Abby Epstein’s Weed the People is a full-scale medical-marijuana polemic. It doesn’t get more serious than kids with cancer. Epstein dives deep into the lives of several families desperate for help after striking out with conventional therapies like chemo and radiation. The antidote is cannabis in the form of a thick black oil, a.k.a. RSO (for Rick Simpson Oil). Surprisingly, Simpson remains a mystery in this story, despite the apparent success of his invention (as made by others). During the filming, two key players – Mara Gordon from Aunt Zelda’s and Tracy Ryan, one of the parents who goes on to start CannaKids – have a bit of a falling out. Talking heads include Ethan Nadelmann, Dr. Donald Abrams and Amanda Reiman. Available at weedthepeoplemovie.com
The original riot grrrl, Joan Jett, had a lot to prove when she broke into the L.A. rock scene in the mid-‘70s. Challenging the boys club that dominated music at the time, first with the Runaways and then with her own group the Blackhearts, Jett battled the odds and won. Kevin Kerslake’s Bad Reputation documents her unlikely rise, huge success thanks to “I Love Rock N' Roll” and later support for grrl bands like Bikini Kill. The other part of the Jett story is her longterm friendship with producer Kenny Laguna, who provides incisive commentary and lights a joint (which Jett shares) during the proceeedings.
Hollywood rebel and ‘70s auteur Hal Ashby gets well-served recognition in Amy Scott’s Hal. Known best for his seven ‘70s films - including Coming Home, Being There, Shampoo, The Last Detail and Harold and Maude - Ashby thumbed his nose at the studios as he made improvisational movies featuring Jack Nicholson, Jane Fonda, John Voight, Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn and Jeff Bridges, many of whom are interviewed. Ashby’s love of marijuana is mentioned often, with joints rolled and smoked. (It especially helped him during his legendary editing sessions.) Ashby passed away from cancer in 1988, two years after being fired from his final movie, 8 Million Ways to Die. Available at hal.oscilloscope.net
Avicii: True Stories
The passing of Swedish DJ Avicii this past April 20 stunned the EDM world. The two-time Grammy nominee was just 28. Born Tim Bergling, he built a huge following over eight years of constant touring, But, behind the scenes, as we learn in Levan Tsikurushvili’s Acicii: True Stories, Bergling battled medical issues (pancreatitis, anxiety, exhaustion, alcoholism) for most of his career. We watch as he buries his head in computers and creates sound landscapes that Wyclef Jean compares to Bach. Though quite intelligent and forthcoming in interviews, Bergling is a mystery. We don’t really find out what makes him tick, what he cares about (other than making music and getting better) or his sexual preference (there are no women featured). At the end, there are no answers provided, just a blank screen. Netflix