Drop your cable


I just caught Ron Mann’s Grass, his manifesto for legalizing pot. Okay, so I’m a little late to the party. It originally came out in 1999. Drug laws in North America might have eased a little since then and the hysteria surrounding “reefer madness” that informed early US drug policy looks even more hilarious through the telescope of time a decade on. But this cheeky pop history of pot is still relevant and entertaining as it cruises through significant cultural and political landmarks in stoner history from Cheech and Chong to George Bush senior.

The 80-minute doc is one of the many free (well, by donation) video-on-demand programs available on Knowledge Network’s website. Lately, I’ve been back to Knowledge.ca quite a bit, dipping into Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott’s excellent documentary The Corporation (reviewed back in 2003 in this column), and lapping up several episodes of the BBC series A History of Scotland. Also on my watchlist is one from Knowledge’s Storyville documentary strand, the 55-minute Bloodied But Unbowed(thePunkMovie.com). But you have to get in there quickly. Due to restrictions on internet rights, programs stay online for a limited time.

Of course, Knowledge isn’t the only Canadian channel streaming full programs over the web although unlike other channels, it is refreshingly free of advertisements. You can find oodles of programming at CBC.ca, from David Suzuki’s series The Nature Of Things (including the full-length tar sands feature Tipping Point) to hard-hitting news programs from strands the Doc Zone and Fifth Estate. If I ever find myself at CTV.ca, it’s usually for a fix of funnyman Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show or possibly The Colbert Report.

Then there’s NFB.ca’s growing archive of animation and documentary. This month’s additions include Gary Burns’s wry documentary critique of suburbiaRadiant City, a series of docs by Native filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin and Don McKellar shorts.

With so much online video, who needs cable? Video already makes up the lion’s share of internet traffic and it will only keep growing so it’s no wonder the recent CRTC decision to metre internet use in Canada has created such an angry backlash.

Meanwhile, back in the movie theatre, there’s Feo Aladag’s debut featureWhen We Leave (Die Fremde), a chilling drama about a young Turkish-German Muslim woman on the run from an abusive husband. In desperation, she and her young son flee Istanbul and travel to her family in Berlin, only to come up against their unsympathetic, traditionalist views. The film (out on the 18th) was inspired a few years ago by a series of honour killings of women in Germany.

On a lighter note, Tara Johns’ The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom (also out on the 18th) is a seventies-set coming-of-age drama sprinkled with humour and Dolly Parton songs. Shocked to discover she was adopted, 11-year-old Elizabeth gets all dolled up like her idol and takes off on a cross-country trek to find her real mother. The soundtrack includes original recordings by Dolly Parton as well as five Parton songs re-recorded by Canadian artists Martha Wainwright, The Wailin’ Jennys, Coral Egan, Nelly Furtado and Franco-Manitoban singer-songwriter Geneviève Toupin.

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike Alone.www.youneverbikealone.com. He writes at www.2020Vancouver.com.

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