Sadly, I fear not.
I saw The Culture High last night (or at least most of it before leaving to catch the last train home) and was very impressed with all that makes a very good documentary; sense of purpose, clarity, humanity (very moving at times), facts, editing and pace. I also liked the audience; committed, honourable, informed, brave…and already converted to ending drug prohibition.
So, how many prohibitionists will sit through this two hour documentary and leave with a new burning desire to end the “War on Drugs”? Sadly, I fear not many.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s very important for documentaries of this quality to be made and seen as widely as possible but I must caution against an over-optimistic view that they will make a significant impact on the prohibitionist culture. The film itself argues that the drugs debate is often more informed by prejudice and self-justifying interpretation than the facts.
I believe that in order to convince those who support drug prohibition to change their minds we need to tell our story through compelling drama. Strong, believable characters can persuasively bring to life powerful tales of the damage caused by prohibition and the manifest benefits of change. Of course we need informed, credible voices speaking out for reform (and there were many in the documentary) but I believe we must also “show” not just “tell” why we need to change.
Although I’m not familiar with how such dramas are commissioned and produced, as a viewer I well understand the power of soaps, plays and films to engage the heart and influence the mind. Should we not try to persuade those actors, writers, film-makers and potential sponsors who support the need for reform to engage in such projects?