Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sneak peek screening of our film at Bill Maher's house as part of a special event organized by CCPR.


The story of the sneak peek screening of our film at Bill Maher's house as part of a special event organized by CCPR in the Hollywood Journal:


http://hollywoodjournal.com/personal-journeys/the-lesson-we-learned-from-making-legalize-it/20131024/

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Open source art: Letting go of your ego

Our Latest article in the Hollywood Journal:

Open source art: Letting go of your ego

Open source art: Letting go of your ego

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus

Last week we saw one of the greatest art exhibits we have ever seen in our lives: Urs Fischer – YES, 2013. We don’t make it to downtown L.A. as often as we would like to and rarely go to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. We actually stumbled into this exhibition by mistake without knowing anything about the artist or what we would see.
What makes this exhibit utterly breathtaking is that it is comprised of thousands of clay sculptures of almost everything that makes our world – from religious icons to pop culture icons, monsters, ghosts, animals, cars, old and new relics, immature and mature work, funny and serious work, playful and sad work – everything is there. We have never seen an exhibit with so much in it.
We were wondering how one man could create so much art even in an entire lifetime. How one man could speak in so many voices, have so many different styles – it was as if every style in the universe was present there but in a unique version of that style, not a mere copy work.
Then we read that the artist who created this work was Urs Fischer and that he actually brought in 1,500 volunteers to create this exhibit with him over one weekend.
All ages were there, young and old, dozens of kids. Most were not professional sculptors.
The artist gave them tons of clay and let their imagination run and regardless if some of the work was brilliant – and some was just okay – together it became a powerful and deeply moving statement.
What this exhibition shows is what we are experiencing all around us – the power of open source and the power of community in achieving greatness.
Open source has redefined our world. From open sourcing our collective experiences in social websites like Facebook, through collective sharing of our knowledge on Wikipedia, to collective sharing of criticism in websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Epinions, etc.
Yet in art? Art is usually the place where an individual expresses his/her unique voice. All arts have a lot to do with a person trying to quiet his/her soul – and part of that journey is motivated by very strong egos.
But open source is the opposite. It is letting go of one’s ego.
Some of the myths of the 20th century were about individuals with a unique voice and how they changed our world. It might be the basis of the myths in all history.
Maybe the story of the 21st century isn’t about individuals, but instead about teamwork that will lead to groundbreaking changes.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

4/20 Happy Global Weed Day

Our Latest article in the Hollywood Journal. Please share and LIKE on the article page itself.

Happy 420 Everyone!

4/20 Happy Global Weed Day

global-weed-hollywood-journal
4/20 Happy Global Weed Day
by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
IMG_2925
Photos courtesy of Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
On the heels of a fantastic test screening we had of our new film Legalize It at the Irvine United Congregational Church of Christ last Saturday, we are reminded what got us into this project in the first place. As in our previous documentaries, we followed those people because we felt they are fighting the good fight.
That’s why it’s not as surprising as it may sound that churchgoers would fill a screening (we had a full house!) of a ‘potumentary’. It’s because our protagonists are fighting for change: changing our society from a punitive to a compassionate one, and that is something churchgoers can relate to.
As we sat on the panel discussion with two of the film’s IMG_3001participants, retired Orange County Superior Court Judge Jim Gray (also the Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Nominee in 2012) and retired law enforcement Lieutenant Diane Goldstein, it was interesting to hear the audience responses which ran the gamut of connecting the marijuana policy issue to the failure of our health system, all the way to the question of when will our DVD be released . . . to which we could only reply with a long sigh.
Apropos, millions around the world are celebrating today, 4/20 aka April 20 . . . Global Weed Day. It’s kind of surreal when you think about how many people are (and have been for years) celebrating their fondness of an illegal activity connected to an illegal plant. Is there any other legal plant in the world that gets so much attention and respect? One wonders why so many people are willing to risk arrest, criminal records and even going to jail for the sake of an illegal plant. After working on our film for over three years, we actually understand and the audience at the church I believe can now understand as well.
However, the risk might be getting smaller thanks to the latest development in the world of drug policy reform: “Russell Simmons Rally Celebrities And Civil Rights Leaders To Help Obama Change Drug Policy” (Huffington Post). The coalition included Will Smith, Ron Howard, Scarlett Johansson, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Hudson and many more.
This news item didn’t just stay with the regular news outlets that feed the news junkies. It was also picked up by news sources covering entertainment and that brought the story to the mainstream majority, many of whom usually don’t care about politics or breaking headlines. Even Perez Hilton posted on his website a story about it: “Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian & More Join Russell Simmons To Urge Obama To End The War On Drugs!”
In the past Hollywood quietly endorsed marijuana policy reform by glamorizing it in movies, TV and songs. But since it was so controversial, there were only a few industry professionals and celebrities willing to publically stand behind the issue. But now, as the group of supporters calling for change is growing, it is empowering more people within Hollywood to come out and have their voice heard.
The Marijuana Spring we predicted in our last story is starting to bloom.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The marijuana spring

Our third blog on Hollywood Journal is up and running. Check it out:

The marijuana spring

The marijuana spring

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
Finally spring has come back. Flowers are starting to blossom, bears are waking up from their winter sleep, and across America people are also waking up to a new political reality that as always has a Californian connection.
They say that as goes California so goes the nation, and as goes the nation so goes the world. If California were an independent nation, it would be the 8th largest economy in the world, which shows the importance of California not just as an entertainment hub, but also as a leading business center.
That’s why when we started working on our documentary following the Proposition 19 campaign to legalize marijuana in California, we knew that whatever happens in California will resonate elsewhere.
But unlike the image of California in the media as being very liberal, the last few elections have shown nuanced results. In the last few controversial public referendums, Californians have been much more hesitant towards major social changes. Californians rejected marijuana legalization, they rejected gay marriage and they rejected ending the death penalty sentence. One surprising common denominator to these ballots: the entertainment industry was less vocal than many expected them to be.
It is a sharp contrast to the past where the entertainment industry proudly took on a leadership role in many of America’s major changes.
It’s not that people in California and in the entertainment industry care today less about social changes, but perhaps it’s that in our global world, we have all bought into the idea that everything is business. Self-help gurus keep telling us every day on TV shows that we got to leverage our own failures and successes, as if we ourselves are our own company’s stock, and in this business culture it’s unwise to express one’s political opinions. After all, in a corporate world, all of us want our own corporation to succeed, and political debate might alienate potential business, clients or work colleagues. This logic is even influencing people’s attitude towards endorsing political pages on Facebook since many feel it might seem too controversial to others if they see their “corporate” endorsement.
While avoiding conflict of political opinions has its reassuring side in the way of people looking for common ground with other people, by not discussing political issues out loud except with those you know totally agree with you, we are perpetuating stagnation.
Because solutions can be found only when both sides are forced to sit at the same table and find a compromise that addresses most of their concerns.
This month, with the coming of spring, an earthquake occurred in American politics and quite surprisingly it happened with an extremely controversial issue, marijuana policy reform.
The former mayor of San Francisco, and currently the popular Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, stated that it is time for a marijuana policy reform. This segment of Bill Maher’s show became an online sensation because Newsom is one of the stars of the Democratic party.
Another major headline was made when California politician and L.A. Mayoral candidate, Eric Garcetti, also came out in support of marijuana policy reform. Garcetti is in a close race at the moment so the fact that he took a stand on a controversial issue like this is indeed groundbreaking.
Another headline that quickly became a sensation and many posted and reposted it on facebook: Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful women in Congress, expressed support on the issue as well.
 We’ve focused on three leading Democratic politicians because currently Democrats are in the top position in California. Yet on a national level, leading politicians from all parties are finding the courage to call for change on this controversial issue. For instance, in the last general election a few months ago, the Libertarian presidential nominee, former Republican Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson, was one of the leading voices calling for marijuana policy reform.
Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who some predict will become a Republican presidential nominee in 2016, made headlines this week with his statement that: “The last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives . . . They got lucky.”
But back to California. When major Californian politicians speak out about this controversial issue, it is obvious real historical change is happening in front of our eyes. Not just for marijuana policy reform, but for the idea of reform itself.
Question is, will the courage of leading California politicians also inspire the entertainment industry to take greater risks in expressing their real opinions on controversial political issues? Will political debate become fashionable at dinner tables?

Remember this spring everyone. Yes, there’s the Arab spring in the Middle East, but it could be an activist spring in America.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What the Oscars say about us

My latest article in The Hollywood Journal about hope, moving images and the essence of stories in 2012:

What the Oscars say about us

Friday, February 08, 2013

Google is more powerful than the gun

My first article in HollyWood Journal about the change in the 21st century:

Google is more powerful than the gun