2 items from 2006
The network said that each of the documentaries will reveal an "untold story in the history of rock and hip-hop music," combining never-before-seen footage with a "unique and unconventional narrative approach."
"The 'Rock Docs' franchise continues to grow, and as long as there remain stories out there to tell, we will find a way to bring that story to life on-air and into the homes of our viewers," said Michael Hirschorn, executive vp original programming and production at VH1.
The docus are:
* The Return of Courtney Love, an acquisition from the U.K., follows the singer as she works to get her life back on track after drug addiction and rehab and writes and records a new album. It also will feature unseen home movie footage of her late husband, Kurt Cobain.
* A.K.A. Tommy Chong centers on the comedian before and during his incarceration after having been charged with selling bongs over the Internet and later turning his arrest into stand-up material. »
AUSTIN -- You don't have to be a drug fiend or a soldier of the counterculture to find something seriously amiss in the scene depicted in the documentary A/K/A Tommy Chong in which millions of dollars are spent, heavily armed troops employed and (to hear the film's account, anyway) a fairly underhanded sting is concocted to put a man in jail for selling bongs -- right in the middle of a national crisis where terrorists are supposedly Public Enemy No. 1. That is not to say the film has much crossover docu potential. Yet it should play well on a targeted tour of cities with large activist communities. It recently screened at South by Southwest Music Festival & Conference.
First-time filmmaker Josh Gilbert, whose skills behind the camera are rudimentary, might be a bit too close to his subject to do disinterested viewers justice; he clearly is a fan and is making no effort to show both sides of the story he reports. The conflict he depicts is between live-and-let-live nice guys and jackbooted feds, without much room for shades of gray. When the story takes him outside the law-enforcement arena (when he talks of Chong's famous partnership with Cheech Marin, for instance) unpleasant details will be glossed over if mentioned at all.
Still, the facts of Chong's imprisonment are enough to boil the blood, especially as described by some outside experts. Alan Dershowitz, for instance, looks at trial records and insists that Chong's incarceration doesn't reflect his crime so much as the fact that he has become rich and famous by making jokes about drug use; he is being punished for exercising his First Amendment rights.
Gilbert takes the scenic route getting to the facts of the case, first giving an enjoyable primer on Chong's early career and improbable rise to stardom in the 1970s. Appearances on such programs as The Dinah Shore Show remind us just how mainstream Cheech & Chong were, and make it all the more strange to see the man targeted decades later.
When the film moves to the performer's legal troubles, we get an apparently thorough account of the crime followed by a surprising lack of details about the fallout. We're told that Chong made a plea agreement in order to protect his wife and son from prosecution, but we see none of the legal maneuvering that might bring this crime-and-punishment saga to life.
When Chong does go to jail, there are the expected maudlin last-night-of-freedom scenes. But we hear practically nothing about the nine months he spent behind bars, except that -- surprise -- the stoner icon had a lot of fans there, all of whom wanted their picture taken with him.
Gilbert hustles us out of this downer territory to deliver his feel-good conclusion, in which Chong both finds his calling as a drug-policy reformer and takes to the road for a solo stand-up tour. Given what he has been through lately, at least he is not hurting for new material.
A/K/A TOMMY CHONG
Blue Chief Entertainment/Surreel
Director: Josh Gilbert
Writers: Josh Gilbert, Steven Hager
Producer: Josh Gilbert
Directors of photography: Josh Gilbert, Jonathan Schell
Music: Oz Noy, Al Wolovitch
Co-producer: Will Becton
Editors: Will Beckton, Mark Otto, Howard Leder, Tom Walls
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 78 minutes »
2 items from 2006
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