Movies and Shorts

Reefer Madness (1936): “This unabashed propaganda film (also known by the title Tell Your Children, a dead giveaway) has become a cult classic of comically bad cinema due to its dated, alarmist views on the dangers of “marijuana addiction” and the exaggerated symptoms thereof. After the onscreen prologue that declares “Something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace,” Reefer Madness launches into a case study of clean-cut WASP couple Bill and Mary, high schoolers who play tennis and drink tea on the back porch. Their friend Jimmy introduces them to a pot dealer named Jack, who invites Bill up to his den of inequity, where stoned ne’er-do-wells laugh fiendishly, dance, and play the piano. After one joint, Bill is hooked, and his life begins to plummet down the tubes — he starts flunking school and becomes a promiscuous regular in Jack’s apartment. When a worried Mary tracks Bill down, she too is given a joint and begins giggling uncontrollably while being aggressively fondled by the bizarre addict Ralph. When Bill bursts out of the bedroom to tangle with Ralph, hallucinating and blacking out, Mary is accidentally shot. This prompts a string of guilt and calamitous occurrences, including several more deaths and courtroom sentences to mental institutions, all because of the devil weed. The film ends with the ominous warning, “The dread marijuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter…or yours…or YOURS!” (AllRovi.com)

The Cocaine Fiends (1936): “Often compared to Reefer Madness, this low-budget exploitation melodrama features Lois January as Jane Bradford, a small-town coffee-shop waitress falling in love with smooth-talking city hoodlum Nick Brogan (Noel Madison), who gets her hooked on cocaine. While Jane goes from pretty ingénue to a hardened nightclub habitue known as Lil, her brother Eddie, a waiter in a drive-in restaurant, is persuaded by co-worker Fanny to enjoy a night on the town. They both become addicts and Fanny is reduced to walking the streets for money. Pregnant and rejected by the hopped-up Eddie, she finally kills herself. Nick, meanwhile, attempts to seduce Dorothy Farley, a bleach-blonde debutante, but the girl is saved in the nick of time by Jane/Lil, who shoots and kills their tormentor. The police arrive to arrest not only Jane but also the mysterious Mr. Big, who turns out to be Dorothy’s father. Cocaine Fiends also features well-known character actress Fay Holden (“Hasn’t he told you yet? Those headache powders are dope!”), who hides behind her original stage moniker of Gaby Fay, and a full-length floor show that includes gawky singer Nona Lee performing “All I Want Is You.” (AllRovi.com)

Cottonland (2006): In this feature-length documentary, photographer Nance Ackerman describes the havoc prescription painkiller OxyContin wreaked in the already weakened Cape Breton town of Glace Bay. The film guides us through a culture of economic and social depression where we encounter men and women at different stages of dependency. Demystifying the world of the addict while showing us the complex social nexus that led to such despair, Cottonland emphasizes the importance of a collective approach to tackling addiction. (NFB.ca)

The Quest (1958): This short film is a re-enactment of the critical year in Dr. Frederick Banting’s life when he discovered insulin for the treatment of diabetes at the University of Toronto. It depicts the odds against which he and his assistant, Charles Best, worked; the scepticism of other doctors and the final victory that gave thousands of diabetics hope for a healthier life. (NFB.ca)

Drugs Inc. (2010, 9 episodes): Drugs: A multibillion-dollar industry that fuels crime and violence like no other substance on the planet. Turning cartel leaders into billionaires, the illegal drug industry also provides vital income to hundreds of thousands of poor workers across the globe. While some users sacrifice their lives to an addiction they can’t escape, others find drugs to be their only saving grace from physical or emotional pain almost impossible to overcome. Where should the lines be drawn in this lucrative industry? (Channel.NationalGeographic.com)

Versus War on Drugs Debate (2012): This new tech-enabled series will maintain the high caliber guest pedigree by featuring Virgin founder Richard Branson, actor Russell Brand, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, former President of Mexico Vincente Fox, former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer, as well as various other figures from worlds of media and law enforcement. Scheduled for March 13, the hour and a half debate will focus on a single topic: “It’s time to end the War on Drugs.” Some of the participants will argue the topic together on stage in London, while others will be beamed in remotely via Google+ Hangouts. (PCmag.com)

Michelle Alexander: Drug War Racism (2010): Litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, argues that we have not ended racial caste in America, we have simply redesigned it: The U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary means of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. Her provocative new book challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America. As the United States celebrates the nation’s triumph over race with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. (YouTube.com)

The Sniffing Bear (1992): This animated film uses the Arctic landscape and the traditional Inuit characters of the Bear, the Seal and the Owl to raise young people’s awareness about the harmful effects of substance abuse. A polar bear experiences hallucinations after inhaling fumes from an abandoned gas can. A nearby owl and seal help to show the bear the error of his ways, thus preventing him from falling further into addiction. This film was an initiative of the Natives of the Institution La Macaza to warn children of the dangers of inhaling toxic chemicals. (NFB.ca)

Flipping The World-Drugs Through a Blue Lens (2000): Inspired by the hit documentary Through a Blue Lens, Flipping the World is an honest look at the world of youth and drug addiction as told by those who have been there. Seven culturally diverse high school students meet with members of the Odd Squad – Vancouver police officers who, since 1998, have been filming people addicted to drugs. The students talk to the cops, then meet some young people in recovery and others struggling with drug addiction. An important discussion starter, this film provides a wealth of teachable moments for educators and others who work with youth. (NFB.ca)

The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan (1978): This documentary follows Jimmy Quinlan, one of some 5000 men and women who have abandoned their jobs and families to live in the streets and alleys in Montreal. This film, a powerful portrayal of life on skid row, tells of Jimmy’s “agonies,” especially his attempt to get off the bottle. It’s something he’s tried before and will probably have to try again. (NFB.ca)

Children of Alcohol (1984): This short documentary focuses on the children of alcoholics. In the relaxed environment of a mountain campsite, a group of young people discuss their anger and frustration, and talk about their struggle to cope with the problems created by their parents’ drinking. By sharing their experiences, they open a door for others like them. Aimed primarily at an audience of elementary school children and older, this film provides an excellent vehicle for generating discussion about alcohol abuse and the family. (NFB.ca)

Through a Blue Lens (1999): Constable Al Arsenault, along with six other policemen, document the people on their beat to create a powerful film about drug abuse. This group of officers developed a unique relationship with addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In this documentary, drug addicts talk openly about how they got to the streets and send a powerful message of caution to others about the dangers of drug abuse. (NFB.ca)

Hofmann’s Potion (2002): This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding. Featuring interviews with LSD pioneers, beautiful music and stunning cinematography, this is much more than a simple chronicle of LSD’s early days. It’s an alternative way of looking at the drug… and our world. (NFB.ca)

Ha! Ha! Ha! (1934): When Koko the Clown comes out of Max Fleischer’s inkwell and eats a chocolate candy bar, he gets a painful toothache. Seeing that Koko is in extreme pain, Betty takes the suffering clown to the dentist’s office. She tries to pull his bad tooth, but she turns up the laughing gas tanks too high, and very soon, Betty, Koko and the whole city are reduced to uncontrollable laughter. (BCDB.com)

Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (1990): Nine-year-old Corey is very worried about her older brother Michael. He’s using drugs, and he just stole her piggy bank to buy some more. Luckily, Corey has help. TV’s most popular cartoon characters leap into action to help free her brother from the clutches of Smoke, a deceptive and corrupting character who’s leading Michael down the road to a drug-abuse dead end. What follows is a roller coaster ride through the perils, pitfalls and realities of drug abuse in which the Cartoon All-Stars prove that there’s a smarter way to go. (BCDB.com)

Drugs Are Like That (1979): Anita Bryant (famous Florida orange juice and anti-gay spokeswoman) narrates this film that tries to simplify its drug abuse message with an analogy of kids putting together a contraption out of Lego blocks. Although the metaphors often don’t make sense, the visual impact of the film is stunning and could easily be quite popular with individuals consuming illicit drugs. Also, like most anti-drug films, this could be a tempting introduction to drugs for some youths yearning to escape their “boring” lives or to rebel against their parents. (video.google.com)

The Terrible Truth (1951): A Juvenile Court judge is at a loss to understand why so many of America’s youths are marijuana addicts, so he decides to investigate on his own. He visits Phyllis, a high school senior and former heroin junkie, who tells him about the horrible effects heroin has had on her. She managed to overcome her addiction to marijuana and heroin, but in the process ruined her hair. This leads the judge to the logical conclusion that the drug problem in the U.S. was introduced by the godless Soviet Communists in an effort to “undermine morale” and that the way to stop the drug epidemic was to “use common sense.” (IMDb.com)

Drug Addiction (1951): Though most of it follows the classic “slippery-slope” narrative of Cold-War-era anti-drug propaganda, it also features this stunning two-minute black-and-white animation on how heroin, opium, marijuana and cocaine are derived and how they work. (Brainpickings.org)

A Day In The Death of Donny B (1969): A Day in the Death of Donny B is a 1969 American short docudrama written and directed by Carl Fick and shot in cinéma-vérité style. Mostly considered an anti-drug film, it was made for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The film follows its protagonist, Donny B, a young black man who appears to be a heroin addict, as he makes his way through the cruel ghettos of New York City. He tries to score money for his next fix by stealing hubcaps, purse-snatching, panhandling, and engaging in street gambling. (en.Wikipedia.org)

Narcotics: Pit of Despair (1967): John, a clean-cut high school senior, is targeted by Pete, a low-life drug dealer, as his next victim. Inviting John to a party, Pete introduces him to big-breasted Helen. Told to “blast off for Kicksville” by smoking a joint, John proceeds to do just that. He is immediately turned into a marijuana addict, and shortly thereafter starts shooting up heroin. (IMDb.com)

Alcohol and the Human Body (1949): With a voice-over narration, this Encyclopedia Britannica film begins with a look at the chemistry of alcohol, the differences among beer, wine, and spirits, and the way the body processes it. When intake exceeds the liver’s ability to oxidize alcohol, effects on the brain mount: using animated drawings, we see alcohol’s effect first on the cerebrum then the cerebellum. Impaired motor control and eyesight is followed by unconsciousness then a slow recovery. The film ends with discussions of malnutrition and of alcoholism and its treatment. (IMDb.com)

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