Spike Jonze Captures America's History with Weed in Film for MedMen
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Editors' Choice: Famed director works with Grey's Anatomy's Jesse Williams on striking film for the LA cannabis retailer
Spike Jonze has directed the latest commercial for LA cannabis company MedMen. The two-minute spot, which was created by Mekanism, follows the turbulent journey of weed before staking its claim as a benefit on modern day society.
The film also features Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams and forms part of the cannabis giant's 'The New Normal' multimedia campaign and further laments its effort to destigmatise cannabis use.
It chronicles the history of cannabis in America, beginning with the fact that George Washington has his own hemp farm, before transitioning through diorama-like scenes of prohibition and racial injustice. It ends with a man welcoming his partner home as she carries a MedMen shopping bag.
Williams co-wrote the film with Jonze, while Academy-Award nominated cinematographer Bradford Young and production designer James Chinlund, who is currently working on the upcoming Lion King movie, also formed part of the creative team. Jonze is also creating a short documentary with filmmaker Molly Schiot. It was shot on set and explores the campaign's films in more detail.
Williams and Jonze repotedly ensured that the bulk of the spot's cast and crew had a real life connection to cannabis. This included a former NFL player who uses it as a substitute for opioids and military veterans that use it as treatment for PTSD.
Jonze says: “When I read the premise about telling the story of the history of cannabis and our country, there was something that moved me about it. I apologize for using such a 2010s word, but it felt healing to me. I didn’t know much about the specifics of the history, but as I learned about it, I felt like it was a story of a very dysfunctional couple. The relationship started in such a healthy place, with even our Founding Fathers having hemp farms, but it got so tragically messed up in the 80 years of prohibition that we couldn’t see straight. It was shocking to just sit in all the stories of so many people and so many lives that were unfairly hurt by the prohibition and the fear that was stoked by it, especially people of color. And it wasn’t just their lives, it was their families, too. And now we are starting to come out of it. We are at that point in a relationship where a couple is calming down after a fight and realizing how irrational they were and trying to make amends.
"I've never been into pot much or a huge advocate for legalization, but I’ve always supported it because it seemed absurd for the reasons we all know. And it always felt inevitable. But getting to do this, I got to learn the bigger picture of the whole story. I feel so hopeful, but the thing that sticks with me and upsets me is that there are still so many people that are still locked up for this plant that is now legal in so many places. That doesn’t make sense.”
Williams adds: “The highly selective criminalization of one plant, with flagrantly harsher punishments for one community, must be acknowledged and left behind for something more reasonable, realistic and fair. It’s pretty clear that Americans are ready to exist beyond a few inherited hypocrisies. We deserve the opportunity to make this right. We can do, and feel, better.”
Adam Bierman, chief executive officer and co-founder of MedMen, says: “Cannabis is part of our country’s history. We’ve moved away from the propaganda of the past and into a world where cannabis is the new normal. We want this commercial to educate and embolden in equal measures. This is our opportunity to make a statement on a national stage."