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Smoke screening: Cannabis film festival lights up Bushwick

No smoking in bed: The feature “One Bedroom” will screen as part of the Cannabis Film Festival in Bushwick on Jan. 13.
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They’ve got high hopes!

A one-day festival of films about marijuana will light up Bushwick’s House of Yes on Jan. 13. The New York City Cannabis Film Festival, now in its fifth year, could attract its biggest crowd yet now that Gov. Cuomo has announced plans to legalize pot later this year — and now that it is in a bigger venue, said the founder of the fest.

“There’s just more interest and more demand for these kind of experiences. I think that’s only going to continue to be the trend,” said Michael Zaytsev, who lives in Ditmas Park, and runs HighNY, a cannabis legalization group. “We weren’t anticipating the Governor’s change in stance when we were planning. The biggest difference is it’s in a venue that has about double the capacity as last year.”

The film festival started in 2015 as a way to combat the negative stereotypes that surround the weed-smoking community, Zaytsev said.

“I think media has played such a big role over the years in stigmatizing cannabis and spreading propaganda about the plant, like ‘Reefer Madness,’ ” he said. “So part of the intention is to use media to undo that stigma and normalize cannabis culture.”

And smoking a joint often helps artists unleash their creativity, said Zaytsev.

“Part of the intention behind the festival originally was, let’s very blatantly point to the fact that cannabis helps certain people become more creative and find their creativity — it inspires people to create and make art, it’s not just ‘Hey, a bunch of stoners getting high,’ ” he said.

This year’s festival will feature an anthology of eight short films, including documentaries, music videos, and short comedies, along with two feature length films. Zaytsev said a panel of judges smoked some weed and watched films submitted from all over the world, and finally selected 10 to screen at the festival. The lineup includes the award-winning feature “One Bedroom” — a story by a Brooklyn filmmaker Darien Sills-Evans, about a black, pot-smoking couple who break up and must give up their apartment in gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“It’s like kind of a romantic comedy,” said Zaytsev. “There’s definitely a strong Brooklyn element.”

And because audience members are likely to have the munchies, everyone at the festival will get a bucket of free popcorn, said Zaytsev.

New York City Cannabis Film Festival at House of Yes (2 Wyckoff Ave. between Jefferson and Troutman streets in Bushwick, nyccff.eventbrite.com). Jan. 13 at noon, 3 pm, 6 pm, and 9 pm. $30.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, January 9, 2019
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