Gonzo-Style Documentary High There Explores Pot Legalization Battle in Hawaii

Henry Goren (Roland Jointz) and Wayne Darwen (Dave High) outside a screening of their film High There at the Cannabis Film Festival
Henry Goren (Roland Jointz) and Wayne Darwen (Dave High) outside a screening of their film High There at the Cannabis Film Festival
Photo by Sam Peters

They say it’s not the destination but the journey there that makes it an adventure. And man was this one a trip.

The journey kicked off three years ago with a filmmaker and his mission — shoot a travel series in Hawaii on the best places to get high. He took along a photographer buddy and they both decided on alter egos, calling themselves Dave High and Roland Jointz. Following numerous strange experiences with the locals, they managed to uncover a secret government plot to control the marijuana trade and keep a local advocate in jail for four years without a trial.

The nonfiction comedy’s writer and director, tabloid television producer Wayne Darwen (in the guise of Dave High) and cinematographer Henry Goren (Jointz) made their way through a Hawaiian haze in an effort to bust out the advocate, Roger Christie, who was put in jail for dealing and trafficking. Christie is a well-respected local who started the THC Ministry, which regards cannabis as a religious sacrament.

Darwen, an Aussie who has lived in L.A. for over 15 years, is a well-known producer who helped launch tabloid television in the early '90s. Robert Downey Jr.'s character in Natural Born Killers was based on him. By making the switch from booze to weed, Darwen’s personality took a pleasant turn and he’s been an advocate for legalization ever since.

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In the film, called High There, Darwen arrives in Hawaii, only to be hounded by the DEA on his first day on the islands. The film, full of comedy and chaos, continues as what he calls a “brainchild born of pot, booze and desperation.” After settling down with trusting locals, Darwen discovers Christie and his case.

“What really infuriated me was Roger was locked up on no charges and denied bail for four years in a kind of Guantanamo little space.” Darwen says. “To me, the whole thing seemed like federal retaliation. Because for 10 years he had run his church, and he was well-liked by the community. Cops would stop by. But he said they turned on him. He is now out of jail, but they await charges to be dropped and the return of their home and funds.”

Following their trip, Darwen and Goren drafted up a trailer and posted it on YouTube. It topped over 1.5 million views. Darwen then appeared as Dave High on a podcast, Buzzsaw on TheLip.tv, boosting his pot advocate alter ego's profile even higher.

High There has already received rave reviews, winning the Viewers Choice Award at the first Cannabis Film Festival in Humboldt County on May 3. 

“It's raw, politically incorrect — and embraced by the 420 culture,” says the film’s producer, Burt Kearns. “When he brought the material back from Hawaii, I convinced him to turn this into a movie. I helped him and Henry shape and edit the film. It’s very experimental and raw, is already selling on Amazon and there’s some great buzz about it.”

High There will be released as a limited edition box DVD through BRINKvision and available on demand across North America on June 23. It will also available day of release through Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Amazon. More info at www.hightherethemovie.com.

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