Increasingly, in our modern world, the power of the moving image is undeniable and the ever expanding reach of technology has allowed us to communicate through the visual medium more easily than ever before. Many of us will now develop our world view in response to the endless streams of videos that permeate our existence to entice, excite, educate and entertain us, so the idea of using film to . improve the public’s perception of cannabis is something which is more important now than ever before. The impact of out-dated films like the abhorrent release of Reefer Madness still resonates today and entire generations have found themselves fighting against the tide of ill-informed hypocrisy as a result of prohibition’s attempts to sway opinion. With this in mind, three friends decided to take steps to bring their own brand of activism to the silver screen.
Conor, Francis and Mark, first met at a rally for the United Patient’s Alliance (UPA), where it became apparent that they all had similar standpoints when it cam to the use of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes. They found that the more they spoke the more their ideas seemed to align and it didn’t take long for them to become good friends. Over time they realized that their combined professional experience put them in an unique position to approach the issues surrounding cannabis prohibition in the UK from a new angle. Having worked behind the scenes in the TV and music industries along with marketing and media campaigns, the trio knew that they had the knowhow, contacts and motivation to try something different.
After much deliberation, they decided to combine their skill sets to form a new company: The London Cannabis Film Festival.
The idea of the film festival came about after Mark saw first-hand the power that film has when it comes to changing hearts and minds. In the aftermath of a knee operation , it was a 3-minute clip online about a patient in a similar position that made a close family member of his (who had always been adamantly anti cannabis) to reconsider their previous conceptions about cannabis an see the therapeutic benefits of the plant.
At the same time, Mark and his friends were becoming increasingly infuriated with the official stance of some politicians who proclaimed that cannabis possesses no medicinal properties whilst simultaneously profiting from the sale of medicinal cannabis via exports to the rest of the world through their significant others. To them, it felt like this was the perfect time to make their mark.
In December of last year, they took to the road with their anti-prohibition roadshow. As well ass promoting their own work, this event was designed to help spread the message far and wide in the hope of drawing attention to the true impact of decades of prohibition. By looking at the reality of persecution and how it negatively impacts on the day-to-day lives of regular people, events like this could become integral to the success of all cannabis campaigning as it tries to turn fight against the rising tide of disinformation.
When we caught up with them recently, they were making final preparations for their big premier of the UK release of the Oscar-nominated film Weed the People, in Brixton at the Ritz on February 21st, but they kindly took the time to let us know what motivated them to bring their dreams to reality. They explained that they have a firm belief in the power of film and had faith in the medium’s ability to spread messages across the world. Each of them indicated that key films and documentaries had helped to inspire decisions throughout life and expanded on how their drive to become more active in the cannabis community was motivated by what they had seen and heard through various avenues over the years. As they developed their networks and travelled further afield, Mark spoke of how impressed he was with the efforts of the UK Cannabis scene in fighting for an end to prohibition, but he explained that he was often disheartened by the lack of honest coverage of cannabis events by the mainstream media. Their desire to support the developing scene meant that they were looking for ways to inspire people to share their personal stories with the world so that the truth can be shared more widely.
When asked about their opinion of whether the UK government’s move towards recognizing cannabis as a medicine was seen as a significant milestone, it became clear that they were happy with the level of progress but hoped to see much more in the way of deregulation in the future. When asked to clarify what they meant, they asked: “How can you really define medical usage? Do you mean a specific treatment for a specific ailment or are you looking at cannabis as a holistic medicine for improving overall wellbeing? Many people use cannabis “recreationally” but the reality is that it helps them to find more balance in their existence – much like people would with anti-depressants or other mood-adjusting drugs. We see the potential of the whole plant and we hope that the coming years see people changing the way they talk about cannabis and hemp so that we can reap the benefits in terms of agriculture, recreation and medicine.”
The London Cannabis Film Festival is much more than its name suggests. Currently, they are keen to spread the word and attract more entries from across the globe for the film festival, they are also working with Hemp in Focus on a script competition which will give one lucky entrant a chance to have their idea turned into a professionally mad film to be shown on the big screen.
Alongside organizing film screenings, the company is poised to explore multiple avenues including mini-expos, talks by key figures in the community and helping people to find a platform to bring their own stories to life through their “find a buddy” service which aims to link budding filmmakers to those with something to share. Add this to their forthcoming “Women n Weed” event and it is clear that there is plenty to look forward to from Mark, Conor and Francis both this year and into the future. This kind of grassroots effort is hugely important, even more now than ever before, and the ability of the community to expand its reach by working together needs to get behind this kind of work to ensure that we all achieve our goals together.
Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 139