Cannabis historically catches a bad rap in motion picture, depending on your views of the sweet leaf. It may have started with Reefer Madness in 1939, which created an initial scare about the dangers of cannabis use. Skip ahead four decades to the slack-jawed ramblings of Cheech and Chong, followed by such films as Friday, Half Baked and Pineapple Express, and cannabis in motion pictures became a caricature of mislabeled stereotypes.
Remembering Us, a forthcoming short film from Denver’s BS Filmworks, may be a needed step to change the stigmas surrounding cannabis, as well as stigmas attached to other issues. “We have a history of creating films that start the conversation, especially on topics that people don’t necessarily want to talk about,” says director and co-writer Scott Takeda.
In 2015, Takeda, a former producer with Denver CBS affiliate KCNC, experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that he and his wife, Lori Allred, had all but kept private until now. Allred, who herself boasts impressive credentials in directing and writing, is listed as a co-writer and director of the film.
Remembering Us is an autobiographical account of Takeda's injury.
The film takes place in Denver, and follows Kate (played by Dani Payne) and Steve (Mike Ostroski) Novak through the trials and tribulations of caregiving: Steve suffers a TBI, and wife Kate is pushed into the position of caregiver. On top of detailing the stigma of TBIs and how they affect the individual, the story of using medical cannabis to treat Steve's medical issue is introduced.
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“In the story, in the early part of the story, he (Steve Novak) has to fire someone at his workplace for not passing a drug test,” Allred explains. “He has a fear of using cannabis because he may lose his own job. But he tries many other things that are not effective for him. It takes him a long time to just try the cannabis.”
Following his TBI, Takeda found himself searching for a symptom management plan that worked for him and his career. At the suggestion of his wife, he opted to try medical cannabis to treat some of the issues that arose from his TBI.
“I think, for me, I had this stereotype: Cheech and Chong smoking these big bongs... . Lori [asked] if I thought about medical cannabis, and that’s what I was thinking, that I was going to have to smoke something,” Takeda says. “Then I found out there’s all these ways to take it, and the most effective for TBIs is a tincture you put orally in your mouth.”
Takeda admits he struggled initially with the idea of using medical cannabis due to his exposure to Nancy Reagan’s heavily publicized Just Say No campaign in the ’80s and ’90s. This challenge is portrayed in the film as both a professional and internal struggle.
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But the focus of the film is not entirely on medical cannabis. Instead, it concentrates on the road to recovery and overcoming the stigma of both a TBI and Takeda's chosen pain management. “If I had a knee injury that took months to heal, people can see me limping. They can gauge the severity...because knee injuries are part of the public discourse, people are understanding of the long recovery time," Takeda says. “However, if I go into work and I’m symptomatic from a TBI, people can’t necessarily see it. And they may not be able to understand it. Like a physical disability, I can still do the work, [but] I just may have to do it differently. As storytellers, we want our film to shine a light on this and bring this hidden disability out into the open.”
With this film, Takeda makes it clear that he is doing better thanks to the help of his wife, friends and family.
And, of course, cannabis.
Remembering Us is still in production and does not have a premiere date; Takeda and Allred expect to release it sometime in 2019.