ReFrame Film Festival 2016: Druglawed

Come Friday, January 29, the ReFrame International Film Festival will open its doors to the Peterborough film-going community. The theatres will be primed, a line of excited movie lovers from across the world will surely run through it, and across three locations a carefully curated selection of films will share their message in the moving light. One of the first of over 60 films, Druglawed, a New Zealand feature documentary, will make its Canadian premiere.

Despite its national heritage, Druglawed focuses on how the war on drugs initiated by the United States has had a massive influence not only in New Zealand, but across our planet as the whole. Their argument focuses primarily on marijuana to expose the hypocrisy of the governments that have been influenced by corporations and war agendas in an effort to weed out cannabis culture.

The film utilizes interviews, intriguing archival footage and recordings, and is bookended by quotes from historical icons to introduce not only where the fear of reefer madness stemmed from, but also the more pressing issues that have been ignored.

Druglawed’s effort is extensive. The film explores a wide range of history that begins in New Zealand’s early colonial days when cannabis was respected and used as a viable medicinal treatment to the present day, where an elderly and retired pharmacist with 20 years of experience is under home arrest for treating her arthritis with the drug. This serves as a prime example of the film’s wonderful contrast that supports its argument throughout.

But some may initially dismiss this film. The cries for marijuana acceptance have been loud and long for decades, and those of a conservative nature may pass on this feature given their first impression.

Druglawed viewers will understand this outlook, but will also be introduced to how such views were meticulously constructed in the first place. With that said, there is a message here that should be heard, and the film employs interviews with former police officers, lawyers, academics, and government officials who acknowledge the facts and speak out for a reconsideration of the law.

It’s a wonderful surprise and goes to show how far the filmmakers were willing to go to have their message understood loud and clear. This isn’t your grandfather’s protest. Druglawed is beyond your typical hippie fare.

Credit is due to filmmaker Arik Reiss, writer Yuki Sato, and Section 18 media for creating an extensive, yet focused story. Aspiring documentarians and editors, take note: this is how an intricate and detailed plot is focused into something that general audiences can come to understand and learn from.

Nothing feels blatant and all the presented material has a purpose and doesn’t feel thrown in. This message is carefully woven from start to finish – flowing from President Nixon’s world-changing regulations, to how we’ve been distracted from acknowledging that government-supported legal drugs (alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals) have caused far more harm than cannabis, and how this aids the businesses that support prisons.

The statistics and facts are both shocking and clear, and it shouldn’t be any other way.

It’s evident why the ReFrame team chose Druglawed as one of the festival’s first films. It grabs your attention with stylistic, clever, and amusing visuals, and refuses to let go.

At first you’re drawn by what you see, but as the film continues you’re stilled by the well-prepared selection of supporting evidence that is impossible to ignore.

Druglawed is a potent and memorable documentary that frees itself of the negative connotations surrounding cannabis culture and elevates it into an educated and informative discussion that is framed in a historical context.

Druglawed will be screened at Market Hall on Friday, January 29 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the ReFrame International Film Festival. Festival passes are $20 for students and can be purchased at Should you wish to volunteer at the festival, more information is available on the festival’s website as well.