Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2020 1:15 pm 
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French wine, Yank weed, two farming families

It's a funny idea and an alliterative title: Rebecca Richman Cohen's modest little documentary goes back and forth between two growing families. Hélène Thibon's Mas de Libian in France's Ardèche region of the Southern Rhone Valley, where her family has grown wine since 1670. Kevin Jodrey's many-generation East Coast American criminal family (he grew up in Rhode Island) led to his move to Homblodt County, California, 28 years ago to be a cannabis "outlaw." Now it's legal and his son Cona, who grew up in Humboldt County, works hard with him in the business. Similarly, Hélène Thibon's son Aurélien, back from working from wine growers in New Zealand, has joined the family business with an intense conviction and a strong bond with his mother. In his case, he hopes to take it over one day, if he's worthy. Cona isn't sure he wants to, but he knows he may have to.

They're all into bio/aka/organic farming. And we learn indoor cannabis cultivation consumes 3% of California's electricity. Cohen found the excitement with Aurélien, because he's trying to run things, but doesn't feel quite up to it, scared that a mistake could wreck their entire small production at harvest. And the manual "vendage" is delicate work as well. Kev has pointed to workers how to cut off a prime piece of a plant and set it for drying, but the trouble here is a rift between Kev and son Cona. The market is glutted, and business is a disaster this year for them. Kev has a dog put down, devastating Cona, and to him, without meaning. "It made me question his decision-making sense." Note that Kev and Cona, who runs and is a kettle ball champion, amply sample their own wares. No worries: the rift is only temporary and the bond is strong.

Both these are small artisanal businesses. And both families let Cohen in on their personal issues quite a bit. She lets them talk and talk to the camera (or voiceover). As she gets to the end, she feels freer and freer to overlap the two families and the similarities show more freely, and the sense of the close parent-son relationship becomes clearer and moe solid. It worked. And the two families come through looking good. The Libian vintage has had a hard year, good in quality but way down in quantity due to weather. The Jodrey's have to give up a whole year to make the full transition to legal production and register following all the constantly changing new regulations, but Kev, with decades of experience, is an example for others. The ultimate subject here is family, and how bonding together to do work you love can make the link between generations strong.

Weed and Wine, 89 mins., debuted at Deauville in Sept. 2020; it shows ad part of the Mill Valley Film Festival ad can be watched online Oct. 9-18 and was reviewed here as part of that festival. It's also scheduled for Toronto Food Film Festival Oct. 16-25 and Devour! The Food Film Fest, Nova Scotia, Canada Oct. 21-25.


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