Not many Humboldt County residents have seen Humboldt County. Most will have to wait until Aug. 27, when the movie opens the 101 Wild Rivers Film Festival with a Eureka showing. (It opens to wider release in September.) However, some are already wondering how Humboldt Countyportrays Humboldt County, and they're anxious about the impression it will make on the wider world.
“Everyone will have a different perspective," said Paul Mann, Humboldt State University public information officer, who has concerns. "Some will see it as tongue-and-check, not to be taken seriously. However, I think it will be culturally damaging and reinforce the widely shared assumption that recreational marijuana use is OK here, which it is certainly not.”
Mann, who saw the film's trailer on the Internet, said that his concerns stem from experiences he has had with parents of perspective HSU students. “Parents have said that they will not send their kids here because they fear the students will be taken in by a dominant pot culture,” he s Philadelphiaaid.
Mary Cruse, director of the 101 Wild Rivers Film Festival and a former lecturer in the Humboldt State film department, has already viewed an advance copy of the movie.
Cruse thought that the film probably wouldn't create a new negative opinion of Humboldt, if only because the county has been associated with pot growing and smoking at least since the ’80s, when 60 Minutes did a segment on the subject. “Humboldt County has long been associated with marijuana farming and smoking," Cruse said, "and moviegoers are intelligent enough to view the film and realize that it portrays just one small snapshot in the wide range of lifestyles that exist in this region.”
Having worked on set during the filming of Humboldt County, Cruse was also quick to point to the jobs for extras and crew, as well as payment for use of the locations, that the film brought to the region.
“The filmmakers portrayed the characters with love and respect," she said. "I think they were very conscious of depicting them, as dramatized versions, of multifaceted individuals. They told one story and did not generalize this type of character as the average Humboldt resident."
The filmmakers themselves noted that they were not out to stereotype the region, but that they were drawn to the storytelling benefits of one of its subcultures.
“The movie Chicago doesn’t represent the entire essence of Chicago, nor does Casablanca or Philadelphia," said Darren Grodsky. "It’s a way of getting an inroad into the film, to set up a certain expectation. We don’t pretend that we made a film that represents the entire county and everything that it is. It is certainly a very small slice of the diverse range of people and lifestyles there.”