Pathfinder // 2002 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // December 17th, 2004
"Hey, try this! Isn't good quality!"
Like marijuana, this DVD should be considered a controlled substance. It contains the ability to sap your energy and make you lose the will to live. I only pray that it doesn't become habit-forming.
Hashish is a documentary about Hashish. Hashish is a powdered drug made from the flowering part of the cannabis plant. A great deal of the world's supply is grown in the mountains of Morocco, by farmers who have turned its cultivation into a lucrative career.
When watching this movie, it helped to pull upon my own experience with drugs. True, I've never used marijuana, cocaine, or any other illegal substances. But I've sampled a huge variety of allergy medications, which have left me with a tolerance for sedatives. That prepared me for this movie. Hashish is an anguishing movie to sit through, possibly the most tedious 80 minutes you'll ever spend in front of the DVD player.
Hashish isn't boring because it is a documentary, or because it focuses on a subject matter that doesn't interest me. It's boring because it's a documentary that exists without any purpose, not even the one purpose every documentary should have: informing the viewer. After watching, I really don't know any more about hashish now than I did before. It's not that I wasn't paying attention, but Hashish consistently fails to make any sort of point. Hashish tries repeatedly to show the differences between certain grades of powder, but the movie has no way of expressing the difference between each grade. You can't feel the powder or smell it, and on camera, all of it looks the same, regardless of quality. After watching the whole thing, all I know is that quality has something to do with oil. And, in the grand scheme of things, is that really worth making a movie over?
Somehow, I gather that the real intent of this movie is to shed light on the farmers themselves, and show how this crop affects their lives. We see them discussing their industry, or hard at work separating the leaves from the flowers. But at no point do we gain any true insight into their lives. We only learn that they work hard and sell a product that lots of people like, one that makes some people sick. By the end, I'm not sure if the movie wants me to understand these people, revile them, admire them, or pity them. There's nothing in this movie that will stir your emotions or persuade your opinions. You'll probably leave it completely unchanged and unaffected. For a documentary, that means total failure.
It's not my intent to be harsh, but Hashish is unpolished and unorganized. Most documentaries attempt to make the camera transparent in order to capture the subject accurately. In Hashish, the camera person is painfully present in each scene. Many people look uneasy in front of the camera, while some seem overly giddy. Every time I see someone look over and smile for the camera, I feel like I'm trapped watching my neighbor's vacation video.
The camera work is equally amateurish, peppered with hasty zooms and rough pans. You can practically hear the cinematographer thinking "Oh, this is cool, I gotta shoot this! Forget how the rest of the scene looks!," while he then proceeds to do 360 degree pans of a vacant landscape, or capture the thrilling scene of a bunch of guys sitting around trying to borrow money. The whole thing is captured onto extremely sharp and vivid video, which perfectly captures the scenery in fine detail. However, the DVD presents this in non-anamorphic video.
After managing to survive the movie itself, I was scared to touch the DVD's deleted scenes. It meant subjecting myself to footage deemed not good enough to go into the movie itself. The inferior footage is separated into two groups: clips of a chicken getting stoned, and clips of a musician playing a stringed instrument made out of garbage. The musician doesn't really fit in with the rest of the work, while the chicken clip is little more than a bird eating cannabis waste and getting drowsy. Also on the disc are some fact files about the director, producer, and historical background. I learned more reading through those three pages than I did watching the movie. Ordinarily, I'd question why this footage was even shot. But really, the movie's already far below that level of scrutiny. Picking on the deleted scenes is just belaboring the point.
After much pondering, I still have no idea why this movie was made. What was its goal? Who was it reaching out to? Were the filmmakers truly concerned with my ability to recognize good hashish powder when I see it? Or, did they consider it crucial that I realize that hashish is cultivated by farmers in other countries (presuming I had previously believed it was pooped out by magic ferrets)? For any purpose I can think of, Hashish falls short.
The court finds this movie guilty on multiple counts of Cruelty to Viewers. Everyone involved is sentenced to several thousand hours of community service, in the form of trying to revive the "Just Say No!" campaign.
Review content copyright © 2004 Aaron Bossig; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Arabic)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted scenes
* Official Site
* Wikipedia's Entry on Hashish