Tonight at 8:00pm at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater, director Mikal Jakubal presents his documentary ONE GOOD YEAR, which chronicles the everyday lives of four marijuana growers in Humboldt County, California, and their unique way of life behind the Redwood Curtain.
Here’s the trailer (below).
Learn more about the film and Mikal’s perspective on making it after the jump.
1. How did your film come to be? How did you get involved in making it? Where and when did you start?
I began filming in Spring of 2010 and finished production in 2011, then took a couple years to finish the film, premiering it in the spring of 2014.
I’ve always found the Humboldt County back-to-the-land marijuana-farming counterculture fascinating, even after having lived in the midst of it for 20 years. When I tell outsiders about things that we take as normal, their reaction is usually head-shaking amazement. I’ve also been watching as the old counterculture has undergone rapid change—for better and worse–and I wanted to try to preserve a slice of the old-school before it is transformed entirely.
2. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? About filmmaking in general?
The biggest single challenge of making this film was figuring out how to get people to appear on camera while doing something illegal. I’d been wanting to make this film for years, but the legal risk to participants and the closed and insular nature of the culture—a product of decades of heavy-handed law enforcement—made normal documentary filmmaking impossible.
I had been toying with the idea of doing interviews and then having local actors familiar with the community reenact the scenes and lines from the actual participants, but that was cumbersome, complicated and wouldn’t really capture the essence of life in the hills the way live-action filming would.
It was extremely important to me to not have people masked or silhouetted, because that’s not how people live here. The Southern Humboldt counterculture—at least the part I felt was at the core that I wanted to record—is a vibrant, fun, open community, not a bunch of gangsters in ski masks hiding their identities. Marijuana farmers are family people, neighbors, participants in the community and for the first time can be open and proud of what they do.
In 2010, Proposition 19, to legalize marijuana for recreational use, qualified for California’s November general election. This was a wake-up call to the pot-farmer community that it was time to come out of the shadows and organize for their own interests if legalization became reality that fall. For the first time in 40 years, the entire community—not just the counterculture—began openly talking about weed. This provided the opening for me to ask for participants in the film I wanted to make. Once I found these four, I began filming.
3. What type of experience or message do you hope the film will bring to viewers?
I’m hoping that what people will take away from this film is that there’s nothing inherently scary or ominous about pot farmers. In a legalized, regulated environment, it would be another form of agriculture. I hope that when voters and legislators see this film they will not be so afraid of the plant and those who grow it. The violent, criminal, environmentally destructive side of black market pot farming has certainly received enormous airtime, but that’s because it’s the only part that most reporters have access to. I want this film to show that there is a more sane, normal side to the industry as well.
4. How do film festivals play a role in the release and promotion of a film? What do you most look forward to about film festivals?
Festivals have been a great way to get the film out to audiences but, more importantly, being selected for a festival screening gives the film validity in the eyes of potential viewers, reviewers and other festivals. As a filmmaker, festivals give me a chance to talk about the issues that might be raised in the film.
5. Describe your connection to Maui if you’ve got one? If you’ve never been to Maui, what are you most looking forward to about your trip to the festival?
This will be my first trip to Maui! I plan to find some snorkeling and maybe do some underwater photography.
The Featured Filmmaker series is coordinated and written by the Maui Film Festival’s Filmmaker Liaison and Social Media Director Sara Tekula. Click here to see all of the Featured FIlmmaker posts and be sure follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get live updates from the festival.