Thursday, February 19, 2009

Celebrating Mary Riffe's Life and Passing

My mother, Mary K. Cowart Riffe, passed away in Dallas on February 5, 2009. I got the news just as I was starting the Fall 2009 Film Tour. With a heavy heart I screened and discussed Waiting to Inhale to large crowds in San Diego, California and Salt Lake City, Utah. In a way these screenings and discussion forums about controversial and important public policy issues are partly due to her influence on me over my lifetime.

Mary was a journalist, but when she moved to East Dallas from Lake Highlands she moved back to the historic neighborhood where we were both born. I was still in San Francisco, California doing grass roots organizing followed by organic farming in Mendocino, California when Mary became an activist for community housing in East Dallas. I moved back to Dallas in 1975. This is when I produced my first PBS broadcast documentary Promise and Practice: Redlining in North America. I purchased a SONY AV 3400 Porta Pack, and she bought my first videocam tripod and the first box of reel to reel tapes. Mary was one of the three lead organizers focusing on fighting "redlining" and on housing and community development and preservation. Mary's work lead to her being one of the main characters featured in Promise and Practice.

As all my films are about social justice issues, over the years Mary enjoyed being at the premiere of each documentary, particularly the community screenings.

It's hard to let go of Mary. Her husband and my dad Norman Jerry Riffe, Jr. died in 1966 at the age of 42. I was already on my own, married to Susan Kreager, and working my way through college by managing the school newspapers and working for Bob Campbell & Associates. She became the matriarch and sole source of support for my brother Ken,sisters Candy and Cindy (deceased), and adopted brother Billy Jack Canada. Anyone that knows my family know the effect that my father's death and my mother's taking over the reins of the family had on all of us, both good and bad.

We are leaving for the memorial. We had cremated and are having a memorial today for her. I will write more later today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winter 2009 Film Tour

Dr. Paul Gahlinger, author of Illegal Drugs, and Valerie Douroux, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, U of Utah

Tonight's the premiere screening of Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law at the Salt Lake Film Center in Utah.

I arrived on Sunday, February 15th. I was honored to be the guest at a really nice meet and greet potluck hosted Valerie Doroux, the lead SSDP organizer at the University of Utah. Over 30 people showed up for the potluck and informal discussion. The screening is part of the Film Center's War on Drug Policy Film Series.

Waiting to Inhale is the second in a series of four monthly screenings. The first was Tulia Texas, the third film will be Locked Down, and the last America's Drug War. This series of very strong films on drug policies in the US has never been screened together. This way the Center can build an audience over time. Great concept.

Jed Riffe and Dr. Paul Gahlinger being interviewed on Radioactive program on KRCL FM Salt Lake City.

Waiting to Inhale Screening in San Diego

The photo is of Aaron Smith, Marijuana Policy Project Coordinator for the State of California, and Rudy Reyes, a patient activist who was severely burned in the SOCAL fires two years ago on a panel with filmmaker Jed Riffe.

The screening and discussion in San Diego last Sunday was truly awesome, and I do not use that word very often. We packed over 200 cannabis activists and patients into a 180 seat theater at the City of San Diego's Central Library. I turned away another 10-15 people because the floors and doors were blocked with people sitting or standing.

The County of San Diego is refusing to comply with either Proposition 215 or with CA assembly Bill 420. They have collaborated with the DEA in closing down all of the cannabis dispensaries, and have refused to create a state patient ID card program.

Four of the twenty-seven people that were arrested this week in San Diego in a county wide sting operation came to the screening to share their stories.

A full page article debating the county's policies under state law and the medical efficacy of cannabis covered the front page of the San Diego Herald Tribune on Sunday. That followed an in depth interview with me on Channel 4 and its sister station (NBC) in San Diego.

Now its on to screen and discuss the film at the Salt Lake Film Center February 17th.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2009 Year of Change

This is my first post since returning from Poland. I was invited by Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, Director, Global Drug Policy Program, Open Society Institute to screen and discuss "Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law"at Watch Docs. Watch Docs is sponsored by the Helsinki Foundation and the Open Society Institute. Everyone I met was so supportive. It was one of the best experiences in my film career. Photos from the Q&A session:

Since my return, I produced a proposal to develop seven individual interactive displays for a major museum in the US. I am currently in San Diego for a major screening and discussion of "Waiting to Inhale." San Diego County is refusing to follow state law AB420 and implement a Patient ID program. The County has lost three appeals of their lawsuit which attempts to overturn California Proposition 215 and AB420. This screening, like the one we did in Fresno last July is a direct challenge to the recalcitrant County Supervisors. It worked in Fresno. After a lot of hard work by local activists led by MPP organizer Aaron Smith, and a series of lawsuits by Americans for Safe Access, Fresno County voted to implement a Patient ID program in 2008.