In the past two decades, documentaries have shifted focus from being travelogues, (like Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North”) or cinema verite (like Wiseman’s “Titicut Follies”), or activist polemic (like Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”) to multiple combinations of ingredients. One subgenre could be called the “tell it to the choir” documentary. Created with a specific point of view, these docs creatively package a message and screen it to groups of like-minded individuals with the intent of coalescing opinions, and garnering broader support on a particular subject.
Documentary or Infomercial?
Len Richmond’s “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer?” is a perfect example of a targeted-market documentary. Written by Richmond and skillfully narrated by Peter Coyote, the film begins with the anthropological suggestion that our caveman ancestors fast-tracked the acquisition of speech by regularly consuming significant amounts of marijuana. We then segue to 1937, when the US Congress (with financial support from pharmaceutical companies) outlawed all medical uses of cannabis, and the government vowed to “eradicate all marijuana” from the USA.
Cannabis and Endocrinology
The next section focuses on the legalization efforts for medicinal use of marijuana in various states—most importantly, the Golden State of California. Headlines from various medical journals are flashed on the screen which highlight the cancer-fighting attributes of cannabis, and we then take a short course in endocrinology and the human immune system. Particular attention is paid to the Endocannabinoids in our body—the neuromodulatory section in our lipid system involved with appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory that mediate the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Labeled “The Pioneers”, a group of physicians and researchers in the US and abroad introduce some new techno-jargon for all medical marijuana advocates to learn and use. This includes antiproliferative, antiangionetic, antimetastatic, and apoptotic effects—all of which inhibit, and eventually kill cancer cells. Peter Coyote then reassuringly tells us of one California study “where some tumors are killed by marijuana…while protecting healthy cells.”
There, in a nutshell, is the danger inherent in the agenda of this type of documentary. Using the word “cure” in its title, and citing research studies which conclude that “some tumors are killed by marijuana,” cancer victims, and those who love them, are offered hope and then asked the emotionally weighted question: “Why aren’t billions in funds being directed towards cannabinoid research by the organizations that raise money for cancer therapies?”
In celebration of Medical Cannabis Week, The Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana will offer free screenings and discussions in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol:
- 6:00 PM Tuesday, February 15th at the Petaluma Library
- 5:00 PM Wednesday, February 16th at the Santa Rosa Main Library
- 7:00, Friday, Feb. 18th in Sebastopol at Peace in Medicine (6771 Sebastopol Ave)
- 7:00 Sunday, Feb 20 in Petaluma at the Aqus Cafe (189 H Street).