Freeland is a delicate tour of the makes an attempt at pot tradition | Display | Pittsburgh
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Photo: Dark Star Pictures
It feels like there has been a noticeable shift in the films since the pandemic, especially towards characters who have withdrawn from society. From a woman who gives up everything in Nomadland, to a reclusive chef in Pig, to Bo Burnham who is confined to a single room in Inside, we’re seeing more and more stories of people who exist a little outside the grid.
We can now add Kate McLean and Mario Furlonis Freeland to that list. Now set in Row House Cinema, the film plays Krisha Fairchild as Devi, a longtime California cannabis farmer who is suddenly faced with the very real threat that legalization poses to her business. As a farmer on a stunning piece of land who has lived her entire life as an outlaw, she has no interest in indulging in a rapidly commercializing business, even as the walls of her idyllic lifestyle begin to close around her.
The film is a scathing condemnation of the direction of the legal cannabis industry. It keeps asking its audience: “Is that really what we want?” Yes, more and more patients are gaining access to the drugs they deserve, but this is at the expense of the people who were there before and at the expense of the holistic nature of the plant that is slowly being corrupted by venture capitalists and startups. In a telling scene towards the end of the film, Devi tries to be the bigger person and looks for a distributor at a cannabis convention. Instead, she has met with tech bros, equipment unsuitable for cultivation, and a threatening banner that reads “Cannabis Meets Capital.”
Unfortunately, some of the movie’s themes and ideas seem inadequate, with some issues not being addressed at all. It’s a shame that a film that cares so much about its subject doesn’t offer a great platform to the overwhelming differences in the battle for legal weed, including the blatant number of blacks still jailed for selling it, even if it becomes legal.
The deliberate pace of the film and the almost documentary shooting style of the directors act as both a blessing and a curse. It is naturalistic, often beautiful and impresses with its calm. But some of his subplots are also underserved, with the relationship between Devi and her employee Josh (Frank Mosley) in particular needing more research. The appeal of Freeland’s restraint is obvious, but sometimes you just wish an attentive camera probed a little more.
However, it’s pretty easy to fix these shortcomings when you have a core performance as good as Fairchild’s. The kind of work that if she had more eyeballs would be considered for any price, she is masterful as Devi, essentially in every scene in the film. She’s wild yet motherly, stubborn but immensely indulgent, a hippie with the pent-up sadness of knowing that the world just doesn’t see things the way she does. Much is asked of Fairchild here, and there is not a single wrong note.
The issues in Freeland are not going to subside anytime soon as more states see the big green dollar sign flashing over every newly opened pharmacy. There are no easy answers, and the film doesn’t really give them either. Instead, it offers a look at what the industry is slowly chopping off, real people who are heartfelt and still really believe in the product they are growing.
To provide more insight into the film, Row House is holding a Q&A with producer Laura Heberton on Tuesday, December 14th. The film will run at Row House until Thursday, December 16.
Freeland Q&A with producer Laura Heberton. 7:00 p.m. Tue., Dec. 14, Row House Cinema. 4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 11. $. rowhousecinema.com/events