“GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution” is a feature-length documentary exploring the medicinal use of cannabis, the patients involved & the campaign to change UK law.
Clark French is 30 years old and has Multiple Sclerosis. Every day he battles, not just against the debilitating nature of his illness, but against social stigma and the law. He doesn’t treat his MS with conventional medication; he self-medicates illegally, with cannabis.
He is part of a subculture of politically driven people, willing to incriminate themselves for something they believe in.
GrassRoots’ vérité approach delves into the lives of people consuming cannabis medically. It follows their movement exploring the beneficial properties of cannabis and looks at the UK’s drug laws, questioning negative perceptions.
Over 3 years we see the birth of well organized, motivated campaigning groups. Socially, politically and media astute, they are ready to take their cause into the mainstream.
Clark also takes us behind the scenes of legal, medicinal cannabis industries in Europe and the USA, revealing the deeply personal reasons that lead him to choosing cannabis. Along the way we find out the extent to which he will go in his fight against drug prohibition and how this has affected his own family.
Dale Beaumont-Brown / Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom
Cannagory: Medicine Makers
Get my ticket or pass! Saturday, 11/12, 7-10, City Hall
Dale Beaumont-Brown started making films when he was 16. His love for film directing soon blossomed and what began as a hobby soon became a career. He has been directing documentaries professionally for 9 years.
Producing dramatically compelling and emotionally gripping stories are at the vanguard of Dale’s artistic endeavours. Whether it’s capturing and revealing human moments within a story, or giving an emotional moment room in an interview, enables Dale to continuously hone his craft and creativity in the documentary genre.
In 2009 Dale founded his production company, Elixir Media Production, in his home city of Norwich, UK.
GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution was a brilliant way for me to make my debut feature-length documentary as it was completely a, ‘right place-right person’ scenario. I was only able to make this film and get access to the relatively underground world of cannabis activism due to the film’s main subject, Clark French, who is my cousin on my mother’s side.
After not seeing each other for around 12 years we met and I quickly recognised Clark’s unique presence. It was during our meeting I knew I wanted to make a documentary about Clark, the cannabis issue and his role within it due to the fact he kept referring to cannabis as his “medicine”. Not only this, but his unfaltering optimism had me excited about exploring a controversial issue I was frankly, quite ignorant about. I’d heard about cannabis being used medically only in loose terms, but here I had a family member sitting in front of me who not only used it medically, but was willing to have his life story documented and provide me access to the world of cannabis activism, in which he plays a major part.
This was an opportunity I was not willing to waste. I had so many questions: – Why does Clark consume cannabis in lieu of many other prescription medications (he quit 9 other medications saving the NHS £15,000 per year)? – How many other people are out there in the UK that use cannabis as a medicine and for what illnesses do they consume it? – What is the current situation surrounding the law and cannabis and why is it still illegal? – Was Clark just another cannabis consumer who claims cannabis is of medical benefit to him? I explained to Clark that I wanted to document the cannabis activism movement and his involvement within it. I also wanted to tell his story, warts and all. What is it like to balance a debilitating condition in multiple sclerosis and not have (legal) access to his choice of medication?
Not only this but due to the fact that I am Clark’s cousin; I wanted to know why his cannabis use alienated him from his dad’s side of the family and explore how their relationship was damaged.
Our initial meeting was in August, 2012. Visually, I wanted to document some of the sit-ins and protests taking place in a vérité style so that the audience can get an, ‘on the ground’, feel for what occurs while people are campaigning. The best way for me to achieve this thematically was through a character driven approach focusing on select activists. Therefore, I was granted access to dozens of medical cannabis patients and activists who ordinarily would not talk to the media, but by the shear fact that Clark was my cousin, most people I came across were willing to have their stories documented.
I chose a couple of other people to follow as well as following Clark’s story, they presented a different viewpoint into how, why and what the UK cannabis campaign are focusing on achieving; a safe, regulated cannabis industry much like what exists with the alcohol industry.
It was through following some other people that I was able to form some relationships abroad, with people in countries where cannabis is in some cases, a regulated industry. So, I am very lucky to have documented a juxtaposition to the UK’s position on cannabis in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Denver and San Francisco. I wasn’t just able to accrue unrestricted access to many businesses within these places but they further Clark’s arc towards a better relationship within his family and his quest for legal access in the UK.
Therefore, what we have with GrassRoots is something that you haven’t seen before because no filmmaker before me has been granted the uninhibited behind-the-scenes access to the world of cannabis activism in the UK before. The cannabis community has embraced me through the conduit of GrassRoots to tell their story.
In fact, back in April and May 2015 we ran a Kickstarter project to fund the post-production costs associated with finishing GrassRoots. We were looking for £16,750, and 205 people successfully backed us to the tune of £19,562. This meant that not only did we have the requisite funds to complete our film, but it also illustrated our audiences trust and desire to see GrassRoots become a reality.
GrassRoots has great cinematic potential; we already have a core audience within the cannabis community and a substantial online social media following who are eager to see the film. It is a film that deals with a social issue that means a lot to many. It represents the underdog standing up to policy and the status quo, and at its heart, has a main character in Clark, who is vulnerable, intelligent, and determined. He is determined to not only see to the betterment of his health, but to strike a blow for social change and mend the broken familial divide which has plagued him his whole life.
GrassRoots represents hope for Clark and for a movement in transition over the course of 3 years.