Pubdate: Tue, 21 Oct 2014
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Times Colonist
Author: Laura Kane
Page: C5


TORONTO - Marc Emery is often hailed as the Prince of Pot, a beloved
champion of marijuana legalization and Canadian sovereignty.

But in Citizen Marc, the famed activist is portrayed as an ambiguous
figure, driven as much by a quest for celebrity and libertarian
politics as he is by principle.

"There's no question that Emery loves getting attention, yet there's
also the question that he's politically effective as an activist,"
said director Roger Evan Larry, who co-wrote the film with Sandra
Tomc. "We leave it to the viewer to parse that out."

The often comedic and surprising documentary is screening in select
cities across Canada this month (it lands in Victoria Oct. 27). Larry
and Tomc will be joining audiences for some showings.

Citizen Marc tells the story of Emery's life up until his
incarceration in a U.S. federal penitentiary in 2010 for selling
cannabis seeds. He was released and returned to Vancouver earlier this

"He sacrificed incredibly. Love him or hate him, he's put his ass on
the line for the cause and he's taken a hit. Five years in a U.S.
penitentiary, it was no cakewalk," said Larry in a phone interview.

Tomc and Larry - who also collaborated on the 2007 drama Crossing and
1996's Gemini-nominated Tested - initially took an interest in Emery
because they wanted a complex subject they could follow for years. The
duo filmed him on a regular basis beginning in 2006.

It came as a surprise to the filmmakers that Emery, often associated
with left-wing politics, actually holds libertarian views that skew
conservative. As a child growing up in London, Ont., he became
enamoured with capitalism and launched his own stamptrading business
that often saw him making more money than his father.

When he was a teenager, he opened a bookstore called City Lights
Bookshop. He eventually discovered the writings of Ayn Rand and
applied her philosophy to his life. He would later run for the
Libertarian Party of Canada in the 1980 federal election.

"That was really interesting," said Tomc, also speaking by phone.
"When we realized the underlying structure of the political landscape
that he was promoting, certainly for me, that was a place where I was
like, 'Whoa. This is a story to tell."'

Emery initially devoted his energies to several different causes.
While in London, he waged a number of battles against the government -
defying Ontario's Sunday shopping laws and selling banned records in
his store.

It was only after a brief and ill-fated move to India that he
relocated to Vancouver and found a new cause: marijuana legalization.
As he says in the documentary, he was looking for "a revolution that
pays for itself," one where he could make money to be poured back into

His Vancouver store and seed business turned out to be the perfect
fit. He devoted most of the proceeds to legalization efforts, said

"It's a kind of paradoxical situation where a person's narcissism or
ego is being fed by his generosity towards others," she said with a

Emery also reveals in the film that he believes his future was
foretold by a prophecy delivered by a woman who slipped outside his
bookstore when he was 19. She told him that while she was in a coma in
hospital, she saw three symbols that would define his life - a dollar
sign, a brain and a leaf.

Citizen Marc strikes a delicate balance between portraying Emery as a
celebrity-seeker, but also questioning whether his performance has
generated meaningful political change. Larry said he personally
believes Emery's arrest was political.

"Many people were selling seeds from Canada who never were hassled by
the Americans, but none of them were taking all the profits and using
it to take on the U.S. government," he said.

While Emery was imprisoned, marijuana was legalized in Washington and
Colorado. Larry also credits Emery with changing the landscape in
Canada, where marijuana is not decriminalized but police attitudes
toward pot-smoking have seemingly relaxed.

"We wanted to unlock the mystery of his effectiveness, of why he was
an effective activist. We live in an age where the status quo seems
both untenable yet unchangeable," said Larry. "We felt an obligation
to try to understand why he had been so successful."
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