Hot Docs 2015: Rolling Papers Review


On January 1, 2014 the state of Colorado went ahead and legalized the sale of marijuana. We probably all assumed someone would make a documentary about it the following year. Sure enough, Mitch Dickman did exactly that and bit off a little more that he could chew. Sure, it’s no-brainer subject for a doc. The challenge was deciding where to point the camera and narrow in the focus. Dickman settled on following Richardo Baca as his main subject, the man hired to be the first ever Marijuana Editor at The Denver Post. It was a reasonable choice given that Baca would be researching the issue heavily himself, so presumably that would help Dickman to cover it all, right? Well yes and no.

The major problem with Rolling Papers is simply that it’s all over the place. One moment Dickman is covering a tame 420 rally, in the next he’s giggling at Baca’s new collaboration with Whoopi Goldberg, then he’s flaunting special strains of weed in exaggerated close-ups, before cutting away to sincerely interview one of the Denver Post’s marijuana reviewers about the controversy she faced by accepting the position as the mother of a young child. There’s very little focus to the film for much of the running time, which can often become tedious and frustrating.

Towards the end, Dickman stumbles into some interesting areas like how covering marijuana almost single handedly saved the struggling Denver Post. Unfortunately, it takes a whole lot of rambling to get to that material. The movie is so disjointed, it plays like a web series strung together to vie for feature distribution. At times those episodes are interesting and at times they’re not. It’s not a horrible movie, just one that desperately needed more drive and focus. It’s almost as if the people making the movie were high—No, no, no…we shouldn’t judge. 



Friday, April 24, 7:00pm @ Hart House Theatre
Sunday, April 26, 1:45pm @ ROM Theatre
Saturday, May 2, 6:30pm @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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