By C.J. Hirschfield
I’ve got to believe that many people are turning to cannabis, wine, and the support of loving family members to get through our current pandemic. And to the extent that each of these supports have been grown organically, all the better.
This makes the fine new documentary Weed & Wine seem like a film that’s perfect for our time. Director/producer Rebecca Richman Cohen is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker who interweaves the stories of two farming families—one in France’s southern Rhone Valley, that’s been in the winemaking business for three generations, and another in California’s Humboldt County, that grew and sold weed on the black market, until new laws made it possible for them to go legit. Both operations are organic and respect the land they work. It’s one of those special documentaries that deftly teach you about things you never knew you wanted to know. Plus, it’s so beautifully shot, you wish you could leave the confines of your four walls and join these folks outdoors in nature for a glass of rosé or a friendly smoke. And the delightfully twangy, surf guitar music by the French indie pop band Juniore somehow manages to musically bridge both worlds.
What makes this film so special is that each family has a son who has been brought up in the family business, with the expectation that he will one day take over the operation. Their complicated—but very loving—relationships are the heart of the film and give us hope for the next generation.
We first meet the Thibon family, who have grown grapes in their biodynamic vineyard in France’s Rhone Valley since 1670. Mother Hélène, not a warm and fuzzy type, explains that terroir (the environment in which a particular wine is produced) is not just the soil—it’s the music, the temperature, the people, and the love it’s given. “Be loyal to your soil,” she says. For her family, making wine is “an avocation, more than a vocation. It’s a priesthood.” That’s a lot to lay on her son Aurélien, who has left home for seven years to learn more about winemaking, to return in the role of the family’s winemaker. A sensitive and articulate young man, he worries about contracting the curse of Charlemagne, whose sons destroyed all that he had built. Tension builds as he oversees the season’s harvest, crush and aging, where, he tells us, “it can all go wrong in five minutes.”
Meanwhile, in greener-than-green Humboldt County, California, we learn about charismatic Kev Jodrey, a self -proclaimed “career cultivator” and pirate. His family has Mafia roots, and he himself was locked up in 11th grade for growing and selling weed. His son Cona grew up believing that hiding from search helicopters was a game; their home was raided when he was six. But since age 15, Cona has helped run the operation, which historically Kev says “Humboldt saw as outlaw, not criminal.” Their plants are all “sun grown,” using regenerative agriculture techniques, which involves putting in more than you take out.
In France, a cold spring and a disastrous drought threatens the year’s wines. In Humboldt, the legalization of cannabis cultivation and sales actually leads to regulatory and industry chaos, which decimates the Jodrey operation, forcing tough choices to be made. “It was the first time I saw dope separated from hope,” says Kev.
Time passes, and we see what changes a year has brought. A prosperous vintage? A viable—and legally-run cannabis business?
There is definitely one thing that we have watched successfully taking root and growing beautifully—the two sons, who, although we can’t be assured will take over the family businesses, nonetheless demonstrate respect and love for their families and all that they have built, imperfect as they may be.
In return, the pride they engender from their parents is palpable—and very touching.
“Plants and humans adapt to adversity,” says Kev.
WEED & WINE is screening in the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival‘s DocLands section, Oct. 8-18 in English and French (with French subtitled in English) and other upcoming Festivals. For the complete lineup of Virtual and Drive-In screenings at the Mill Valley Festival look here.
Visit the Film’s Website.
Interview with the filmmaker in Organic Wines Uncorked
C.J. Hirschfield recently retired after 17 years as Executive Director of Children’s Fairyland, where she was charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park. Prior to that, she served as an executive in the cable television industry where she produced two series, ran San Francisco’s public access channel and advocated on behalf of the industry. A former writer for Film Month, she also penned a weekly column for the Piedmont Post for 13 years and now writes features and reviews for EatDrinkFilms. C.J. holds a degree in Film and Broadcasting from Stanford University.Hirschfield currently serves on the programming team for the Appreciating Diversity Film series showing free documentaries in Oakland and Piedmont, as well as on the advisory board of Youth Beat, a youth media training program that provides low-income Oakland students with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in today’s workforce.
C.J. says, “A good documentary takes us places we never could never have imagined, and changes the way we see the world.”How to Pair Wine With Weed– A offering from The Manual.
WEED & WINE- A Virtual Symposium– October 28, 2020
Eater offers Try Smoking a Joint With Your Next Glass of Wine– An unconventional pairing project with a lot of resources.
Every Wednesday check out the Weed & Wine Podcast (not related to the movie) with Chris Reinacher & Steelo Brim.
For a very different kind of high: Read Paul Krassner’s My Acid Trip with Groucho Marx.