Friday, October 05, 2012

"Humboldt County": a "failed" young physician finds himself off the grid on a communal marijuana farm

There is a shot of the northern California coast in “Humboldt County” that looks so pure that it seems to be a scene on another planet. The actual county is way up on the coast, the next-to-last county before the Oregon border.  The protagonist, at the end, says that it is a “place that can bring people back to life”.  I think I went through it with some other grad students on my first trip to the west coast, in 1966.

As the 2008 film “Humboldt County” by Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs opens, Peter (Jeremy Strong), a medical intern, is interviewing a distraught patient. We learn shortly that this was a “test” that he fails.  His own father flunks him out of medical school. 

Peter heads north, and winds up living off the grid on a farm of marijuana farmers, who live off the land in relatively stable families but who can defend themselves with guns if they have to.  He gets an early initiation in counterculture values (using the potty) and a lecture on the “Event Horizon” (and what isn’t “summer vacation”). Pretty soon the fibbies start showing up. So does Peter’s dad, who wants him back in medicine. Peter is certainly caught in the middle. They're pretty much off the grid: no internet, and lots of manual labor, but cell phones work.  This is a bit like an "intentional community" (or commune) in the woods.  

The film really does take the libertarian position that most of the “criminality” associated with pot is create artificially by making it illegal.

Here's another great quote: "It's a foolish man who underestimates his enemies; it's a stupid man who underestimates the feds."

The official site is here

The DVD has a short “A Little Hazy: Humboldt County Revisited”.  One of their friends calls them "hobbits" even though one of the directors (Darren) is tall. 

See also “The Union” (Sept. 3, 2009).  Other films on the topic are “Grass” (1999, Ron Mann, Lionsgate) with its embeds of “Reefer Madness”, and “American Drug War: The Last White Hope” (2007. Kevim Booth, Sacred Cow, reviewed here March 6, 2008).

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