RIFF “The Culture High” (2014): A Fun Bit of Weed Propaganda (Review)

The debate about the legalization of marijuana is a difficult subject which many people are not willing to touch in public with a ten-foot pole. It’s a subject that reaches widely and many have strong opinions on. The documentary, The Culture High, sets itself out to be the ultimate documentary about the legalization of marijuana, it’s very much a pro-marijuana movie that looks at the subject from various directions and it cannot be denied that it’s very comprehensive and informative and quite impressively put together by director Brett Harvey.

It can also not be denied that it’s a rather one-sided and somewhat preachy bit of propaganda.

This is not neccesarily such a bad thing and The Culture High makes a very good argument for the legalization of marijuana, it could even have the power to sway people who are unsure (though it most likely won’t do much to those who highly oppose it).

The film does not start off too well, though, as it seems all too clear at the beginning where its viewpoint lies and it feels really preachy from the get go.

Gradually the preachiness starts to wear off a little and it becomes clear that The Culture High is, at least to a certain exect, aiming a little higher, while it is in essence a (one-sided) debate for the legalisation of marijuana it’s also very much about the dangers of capitalism and a look into how corrupt american politics have gotten. This movie is not so much about the legalisation of marijuana in The United States as it is about the way the United States are ruled. It’s also a condemnation on the war on drugs which can in many ways be equated with the almost equally fruitless war on terror.

This is where the film works best as it stops being about marijuana for about half an hour and goes for the wider picture, after an hour of relentless pro-legalisation debate it’s nice to go somewhere else and it feels like all that weed talk has been leading up to something bigger.

But eventually it goes back to the weed, though with a wider perspective.

The Culture High is really more of a feature length essay movie than a documentary, as debates go it does a great job by taking the matter into various perspectives and much of it is pretty convincing. But as a film of the cinema it’s not as succesful. It’s way overlong and is basically just making the same point over and over again, giving very little insight from to other side, the one against legalisation (or maybe it just expects the viewers to know all about that). In a debate like this it always helps to look at things from the other side, to put things into wider perspective. But apparently the makes of The Culture High didn’t deem that too necessary.

Much of it is still pretty entertaining and often gripping and it’s certainly worth a look for anyone interested in the subject. It’s also worth noting that most of the people being interviewed are experts from various directions (government officials, policemen, scholars and such), rather than just a bunch of famous people which these kinds of movies often rely too much on. And the celebrities that are interviewed are fun and fitting choices like comedian Joe Rogan and, of course, Snoop Dogg.

The Good: This movie is a pretty comprehensive and convincing overview of all the reasons to legalize marijuana.
The Bad: It’s also preachy, one-side propaganda that even reaches for emotional porn at one point.
The High: Snoop Dogg!

Overall: 6.7/10

Written By Atli

Atli is a film geek from Iceland who dreams of being a great film director, but until then he’s going to criticize the works of other film directors, great and not-so-great alike. His favorite actor is Sam Rockwell and his favorite directors are (among others) Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick. Atli also loves pizza, travelling and reading good books.


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