Honeydew is a community, a piece of land in Northern California. Honeydew is an idea of simple cohabitation, in contact with nature. Honeydew is the business of marijuana, among the best in America, namely in the world. Honeydew is Maureen, the first to buy land and settle here in the Eighties, after travelling around the States on a school bus, singing her country songs. To some people, Honeydew is an escape, to others, it is a prison.

Today, the security policies and the legalization of cannabis have contributed to spread a wide sense of insecurity. In the last fifty years, everyone in Honeydew has been dealing with weed and everyone is wondering what will happen to their little world now that the trade of marijuana has been definitively legalized.

Honeydew is a community, a piece of land in Northern California. Honeydew is an idea of simple cohabitation, in contact with nature. Honeydew is the business of marijuana, among the best in America, namely in the world. Honeydew is Maureen, the first to buy land and settle here in the Eighties, after travelling around the States on a school bus, singing her country songs. To some people, Honeydew is an escape, to others, it is a prison.

Today, the security policies and the legalization of cannabis have contributed to spread a wide sense of insecurity. In the last fifty years, everyone in Honeydew has been dealing with weed and everyone is wondering what will happen to their little world now that the trade of marijuana has been definitively legalized.

The movie

Honeydew is a dramatic and yet simple observational documentary, set in a peculiar land that becomes the central theme thanks to the stories of its inhabitants. Maureen, the singer-songwriter, the only woman who lives alone in these valleys; Gary and Ladonna, two hard-working hunters and hermits; Jay, a currently retired LGBT activist and veteran of the Vietnam War who takes care of those who have no family in Honeydew; Mark, a carpenter and former leader of the firefighters, and Shoshonne, the historic teacher of the only school within kilometers. And then Cody, Monica, Daniel, Bob, Tim… living in Honeydew requires great strength and charisma so that, in the everyday needs of individual life, you can always find a heterogeneous but close community, an American community, in the most inclusive acceptation of the term.

Maureen, sixty years old, lives in a remote corner of Humboldt County, which has been known for over fifty years for the intense production of marijuana, sold illegally all over the world. During the Eighties, after travelling around the States on a school bus, singing her country songs, she settled in the small village of Honeydew, a rural area, hard to reach and known to be a disreputable place.

Maureen, back in the day.

Thanks to her charisma and her eccentric but firm personality, Maureen has become a point of reference in Honeydew. All along the year, her property is crossed by an incredible variety of people, from romantic hippies to greedy businessmen and lone wolves. Another important role is played by people passing through and coming back every year for seasonal work: travelers, musicians, illegal immigrants and free spirits of all sorts who cyclically come to interfere with Honeydew’s unstable balance.

Today Maureen is at a crossroads: will she manage to stay in Honeydew now that legalization has altered the power relations built in the past, now that her daughters have moved away? Or will she have to step back into the game? In any case, the most significant change is taking place on an individual plan. Now that she is getting older and everything she has built seems destined to collapse, she can go back to her school bus, which was never truly sent for scrap in her heart, to her music and her blueberries.

Honeydew administratively identifies a small village in northern California. When, starting from the 1800s, the mineral wealth of the area was discovered, in addition to the immense supply of precious woods for the construction sector, a first generation of settlers moved to these valleys, giving rise to small but thriving local economies.

Bob, the current owner of the Honeydew store, tells us about the sacrifices that his parents faced to make these places hospitable:

“I have a huge admiration for my family who came here on horses with guns and never left. (…) It Took generations to make this Valley how it is today. And it only took one generation to drive it off on the other hand. The old people, that built all this for us, would be now pissed off. Today it is just a place to make money. “

The origin of Honeydew is therefore not very different from that of many other peripheral places in the Wild West whose pioneers, who managed to satisfy their desire for self-determination at the expense of a life far from the comforts of society, were able to shape a environment in harmony with their needs. In our case this balance remained unchanged until we started growing cannabis. The economic structure changes but the meeting between natives and foreigners is less conflictual than one might expect. Why? The words of the store owner return:

“My father knew already about marijuana and he knew it was not good. They were all against it until they realize how much money you can make with it. I know only two people that never get involved in the business here. “

Bob, like other inhabitants of the valley crossed by the Mattole river, is the custodian of a conservative tradition. Fervent supporter of the right to own firearms and the sacredness of private property, he regrets the days when it was lawful to hunt inside Californian natural parks or to freely fish for self-support. According to him, today, the system itself forces individuals to break the rules by activating a vicious circle that leads from lawfulness to illegality.

This opinion constitutes a sort of recurrence in Honeydew, the one for which marijuana trade, prohibited and widely practiced for over half a century, has made people diffident towards the institutions and has therefore pushed them to rethink the commonly accepted values.

If living (or having lived) illegally is the main glue among people in Honeydew, it is not the only one, but rather a recurrent pigment in the picturesque scenery of this village. Why picturesque? First of all, for the composition of the social group, which is extremely varied. Considered that, although it records a few hundred stable inhabitants, to which many more individuals are added seasonally: cowboys, hippies, artists, hunters, naturalists, political activists, entrepreneurs, illegal immigrants, millionaires, drug addicts and marginalists, just to mention a few standardized social figures. Labels that we use every day, but in Honeydew they are more nuanced than elsewhere.

If we return to the period when marijuana became the main means of livelihood for most of the inhabitants of this village, it will be useful to add that this also led to the encounter between two cultures for many opposite reasons. On one hand, the rednecks, or the natives like Bob and his family, and on the other, the hippies. With this term we refer in reality to all those who, in fl uenced by the movements born since 1968, opposed the hegemonic values ​​of the pre-established society. In Honeydew the meeting between these two worlds was not as con fl ictual as elsewhere and, although it has been said earlier that this was made possible thanks to the generous profits guaranteed by the cultivation of cannabis, we cannot underline other fundamental factors: first of all the isolation.

Honeydew is about two and a half hours by car from the first police station and the same is true of the hospital, the court, the university, the shopping centers and so on. The only state entity present is represented by firefighters who, on the other hand, only serve on the territory six months a year. If at first sight the isolation of the inhabitants of this village has reduced the risks of a life in illegality, on the other hand it has only aroused a widespread sense of fragility due to the dangers that this could entail, especially considering the fact that in case of need (aggression, fire, theft, etc.) you cannot count on the prompt intervention of the authorities and this applies regardless of the condition of illegality, or not, in which you live. By interviewing the inhabitants of Honeydew, we realized how much the worries due to living in such a remote environment did not diminish before and after the legalization. It is rather the perception of the enemy that changes and, in case, the way in which you protect yourself. It is the case of Gary and Ladonna that since the cannabis trade has been legalized they have been victims of two thefts and their perception of the danger has shifted from fear for a police raid to that of a thieves’ incursion:

“To keep our home safe we ​​just need to stay at home. To protect our place we have home sensors that tell us when somebody is there. But we have never had security cameras before, back when there was the black market. Now since it has got illegal it seems more threat for home invasions particularly.”

The social sciences that study the relationship between place and inhabitant identify three main factors so that it is possible to develop a sense of grounding in a given context, namely: security, control and familiarity. During our stay in the field we were thus inspired by these concepts in order to guide our interviews. To this must be added that the main objective we set ourselves was to probe what specific community sentiment has arisen among these people. An apparently paradoxical question if we consider that, at first sight, Honeydew is a place where privacy and individualism represent characters widely shared by the community. But let’s go deeper into what, in our opinion, is another important aggregating element among these people: safety.

Both the perception of danger as well as feeling more or less secure is something very personal and that can be influenced by various external and internal factors. Maureen, for example, claims to feel safe when she knows she is alone:

“You are safe when you are aware of you surrounding and environment. Out here I ended up with a gun which you need. There are bears and mount lion, it is probably more to protect your dogs and cats, but also I feel like I am a woman and I don’t know if it is worse these days but .. Safe to me is know you are alone. If I know I am alone I am safe.”

Maureen’s property is protected by surveillance systems that signal when someone enters it, but it is also the relationship with the “neighborhood”, governed by specific rules of respect, that guarantees the suf fi cient serenity so that you can feel at ease.

The theme of security, or rather its perception and, more concretely, the forms of protection that are practiced, is an extremely relational concept, that is, it implies the need to organize collectively. Take, for example, the story of the day when Gary and Ladonna were robbed:

“The night we got rob and we came home and found that we got rob in about half hour one of the public road that runs next to my house here, which we figured the robber used, we blocked it so that road was out of commission . When the sherif arrived he was surprised. He know how we operate out here, we are proactive. We started to investigate until we fi gure it out. Now there is neighborhood watch.”

Similar systems of collective organization have been practiced in Honeydew since the time when we lived in total illegality, this is the case when the feds arrived:

“When the cops came to the valley with their big vehicles the fi rst person to see them, and it was at the highway most of the time coming into the redwoods, and somebody would call ten people and those ten people would call their friends. Before the cops can get to the valley everybody knew their were here.”

The issue of security does not end with protection from theft or police raids. There are other factors that can endanger people and that, due to isolation, force the inhabitants to organize themselves by increasingly strengthening interpersonal ties. Among the most important we report the danger of fires. As mentioned earlier, state firefighters are present in the valley six months a year. But this is not enough to keep the territory out of danger, so the community, even in this case, decided to find a solution and founded a voluntary and self-financed body with flexible participation. Here’s how Mark, the former chief of volunteer firefighters, tells us how it went:

“The community fire department it didn’t because anything but the people. The people said we need to do this and did it with nothing. There was no money from anywhere, there is not been money, there is not county money. We are not a district, we don’t have any tax district here. So we don’t get any money from the county for fire use.”

We have thus exposed the main elements that guide our research. Obviously, these are thematic nodes from which other interesting reflections branch out, such as the relationship between what is outside Honeydew and what is inside, the thresholds between public / private, relational places, collective rituals or major events, tragedies and much more that contribute to making this village a very, very particular community.

Illegality

It was when Trevor told us about that guy who got away with hiding in the woods for twenty years, that we began to understand the nature of social ties to Honeydew: “When things are illegal, everything become legal,” he said.

For some time we had been wondering about secluded life far from the customs of society in this country in Northern California: The answer lay before our eyes: their clandestinity of its inhabitants.

It is in reference to this existential condition that we will speak here of community and self-management. With the legalization of cannabis for medical use in 1996 there was an exponential increase in the number of growers, but this did not limit the black market which, indeed, saw its profits increase enormously. From this moment on, those in California who decided to enter the business had excellent chances of getting rich quickly. So it was in Honeydew, where those who were initially small growers reached such dimensions that they would no longer go unnoticed by the FBI’s aerial patrols. But the phenomenon was already so extensive that any coercive attempt was useless. Thus a hidden economy was created which still requires shared individual and collective codes of conduct. The sacrifices, the fear of being discovered and the sense of freedom that can be so easily felt. The illegality of Honeydew does not only concern the owners of the “farms” but involves a whole series of actors who gravitate around it: helpers, retailers or seasonal workers. This clandestinity therefore becomes a transversal characteristic that is not limited only to those who live there. in 2018 the Californian legislative machine started up again and, with the last great legalization maneuver approved with a referendum, places us in the wake of a great change.

Change

Since we believe that precisely the condition of illegality has contributed to impressing a distinctive character of Honeydew’s Genius Loci, we now want to document the reaction of this community: how will it adapt to the new social order and what changes or resistances will it implement? Other major social changes are also at stake, which are likely to play a first-rate role, such as generational change, competition from the free market and the latest political choices on the management of immigration which poured a large part of this area into this basin. workforce.

Now that Trevor’s words expose a certain sense of nostalgia, we ask ourselves what will become of that desire for disobedience that we believe was necessary to lead a life in illegality.

Participant observation

Our gaze intends to pass through the anthropological lens. We will move into the everyday life of some of the most representative characters of the spirit of Honeydew, thus turning our attention to the collective “rituals” whose meaning is connected to this way of living. The spatial implications of this “self-segregation” such as the management of public space, the role of private property, impassable borders and the vastness of natural parks will also be the subject of our research.

We will be observers constantly looking for dialogue as a privileged investigation tool. Furthermore, the point of view of the film cannot fail to take into account our relationship with Honeydew and its inhabitants, which has matured in recent years. For this reason we believe we can be privileged observers. Our friendship with Maureen, for example, has allowed us to gain a position within his network of knowledge. We soon passed from the generic “trimmers”, in reference to the tasks we carried out, to “the italians”, which certainly did not lack a touch of irony.

Between January and March the harvests are suspended and the work drops drastically. Is winter. The rainy and cold climate will result in a prolonged gaze towards the interior of the places. In the first period of filming, therefore, greater interaction with the inhabitants will be possible, given their availability of free time. During these months the most stable people will be present, with whom we intend to spend most of our days.

Honeydew is a dramatic documentary told with simplicity and lightness, set in a singular territory, which becomes the protagonist of the story together with its characters.

“When things are illegal, everything becomes legal” Trevor said to us one day, about that guy who for twenty years got away with hiding in the woods around there. It was then that we began to understand the nature of social ties to Honeydew. The marijuana business has found, in this secluded corner of the world, a fertile ground in which to root and spread, thus creating an underground economy governed by shared codes of conduct.

For a long time we have wondered about the particular complicity that connected these people, mostly desirous of a secluded life far from the customs of society. The answer has always been before our eyes: their clandestinity.

However, others who preferred the benefits, albeit risky, of a life in hiding are opposed to the liberal optimism of those who invest to remain competitive. We chose to stay away from the political documentary and the reporting report, simply by telling the story of Maureen and her relationship with the rest of the community. Through the intimate, private and family sphere we want to describe a cultural and social condition. Like anthropologists, we will be observers in search of dialogue as a tool for investigation.

Our friendship with Maureen has allowed us to gain a position within his network of knowledge, which is why we will be privileged observers thanks, also, to the relationship gained in the five years spent at Honeydew. A point of view from the inside, where the characters are told in first person. In fact, one never enters the institutional sphere, distant, inaccessible as in reality, but a common history of ordinary humanity is staged. Not a documentary reconstruction typical of the investigation, therefore, but the description of a human condition in a peripheral American place, still partially unrelated to the production logic of the real market.

Honeydew tells the story of a woman, Maureen, and the people who live next to her and who share hopes and expectations with her, but also anger and frustration for an imminent future that does not seem to spare anything from what she had painstakingly built. Three generations compared and one big theme: the change brought about by progress and therefore the integration of another reality into real society. Maureen and Gary represent the elders, the original spirit of Honeydew. Trevor and Ian are the generation of adults, enthusiastic about change but clinging to their past. Then there are the younger ones like Cody and all his gang, who do everything to eradicate their roots.

The documentary will be accompanied mainly by country music, partly played and sung by Maureen herself. A popular music born in the rural areas of North America that will play a fundamental role, characterizing the acoustic structure of the documentary.

Our working approach will be of an observational nature, inserting itself into that documentary tradition that seeks strong and intense participation in the relationship with the subjects. In the months of shooting we will therefore live in close contact with the protagonists of the story, spend the days with them and follow them in the daily chores of their lives.

We will represent marijuana as perceived by the inhabitants of Honeydew: a totally ordinary element in their lives. To emphasize this reading, we will follow the growth of another plant that represents for the community an equally element of union with multiple symbolic implications: the pumpkin. In fact, every year the competition for the biggest pumpkin takes place. We will then follow the growth of Ian’s pumpkin, winner of the coveted prize in the past. It, associated with the passing of the seasons, will be a metaphor for the cyclical nature of life between expectations and fears.

The story takes place over a year:

In the winter, work in the fields is suspended and only landowners remain in Honeydew and most of the time is spent inside the domestic space. The protagonists of our story have a lot of free time, generally they have already sold the harvest of the year and with it the concerns accrued in the previous months. Interior and exterior are in stark contrast, the settings will be mostly represented by dark tones that will help to dramatize the psychology of the characters.

On the contrary, summer is associated with long sunny days with bright and saturated colors, we are in the midst of the harvests, everyone is extremely busy, there is tension and the seasonal workforce request reminds Honeydew of a variety of new actors. In this period, the outdoor space will be the setting for most public and private events: between collective gatherings, parties, hunting trips and much more.

Even photography, characterized by the use of natural light, will highlight the passage of time, trying to reproduce the colder colors of winter, creating an atmosphere full of suspense and emotional detachment towards the characters, up to the warmer tones in the summer, where instead the spectator, during the story, will have had the opportunity to get to know the protagonists better by feeling more peaceful and safe inside Honeydew.

For all the outdoor scenes we will try to take advantage of the splendid California light: the sun’s rays that pierce the dark and cloudy sky, creating impressive chiaroscuro and dramatic shades; the light that infiltrates the redwood forest to create captivating scenarios.

The choice of locations will be equally extremely important. A careful research of the places has already been done upstream and has helped to lay the foundations for a visual and photographic research study.

The film will be shot using an UrsaMini Pro with Canon CN-E lenses, using the 4k format for the construction of a 2:35 picture. A 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lens will be used to portray the characters, a 24mm and 70-200mm lens for describing landscapes. In addition, a zoom lens will be used during the less predictable moments. A look always at eye level, a single point of view.

Honeydew’s story as a place of contention between what is legal and what is illegal begins in the late 1960s, when President Richard Nixon initiated a prohibitionist policy known as “The war on drugs”. The collision with the turmoil of protests in 1968 and the new presidential rhetoric, which places the symbolic and physical fight against drugs at the center of its political design, contribute to imparting a distinctive character of Honeydew’s Genius Loci.

Over the next two decades, prohibition remained a constant in American politics. The state of California has represented an anomaly in this sense, distinguishing itself from the rest of the country since the 1990s. In 1996 marijuana was legalized for medical purposes and with it began a slow rethinking of the collective values ​​attributed to this crop. There was an exponential increase in the number of farmers, but this did not limit the black market which, in fact, saw its profits increase enormously. From this moment on, those in California who decided to enter the sector had excellent chances of getting rich quickly. This was the case in Honeydew, where those who were initially small growers reached such dimensions that they would no longer go unnoticed by FBI air patrols. But the phenomenon was already so extensive that any coercive attempt was useless.

Today, the Californian legislative machine has started up again and, with the last major legalization move approved with a referendum in 2017, places us in the wake of a great change.

Michael Petrolini

Born in Turin in 1992, after his diploma in Parma he enrolled to a Sociology course in Milan but soon he quit and began to work and to travel. During the following five years he visited the United States, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, South East Asia and Africa. In 2017 he took classes at the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern school of cinema in Bologna, where he graduated in November 2018.

Marco Bergonzi

Born in Parma in 1991, he obtained a degree in Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Milan. He returned to Parma where he accomplished his studies in 2018 with a multidisciplinary thesis about informal living. Through this research he came into contact with humanistic disciplines such as anthropology and sociology. A passionate photographer, in the last three years he dedicated himself to documentary cinema.

Francesco Cibati

Born in Parma in 1991, he obtained a degree in industrial design at the Polytechnic University of Milan in 2013. During the same year he attended a course at the Escuela Superior de Disseny in Barcelona. He begun to work as a graphic designer and copywriter, expanding his area of expertise to photography, animation and web design. In 2016 he worked in the communication department of AHRI in Durban, South Africa. In the same year his independent and collective editorial project (C.A.C.C.A.) is selected by the Compasso d’Oro. In 2017 he obtained a master degree in marketing and communication at IUSVE, Venice. The following year he started a career as a freelance, cooperating with well-known brands such as Mondadori Electa, Bain & Co., Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, Palazzo Ducale di Mantova, Davines and Great Lengths. In 2019 he came into contact with the world of documentaries, collaborating in the production of How I came here (D. Rabacchin, Bosnia, 2019), which narrates the situation of migrants along the Balkan Route. Honeydew is his second documentary project.

Alberto Marras

Born in 1995 in Cagliari, he studied music at the conservatory. After a scientific diploma he moved to Bologna where he graduated at the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern school of cinema, specializing as a sound engineer. Since 2018 he works as a direct drive sound engineer, sound designer and film composer with many film productions.

Indyca, Production company

Indyca is an independent production company established in 2007 in Turin, Italy. Guided by the ambition of using cinema in its widest sense and freedom with a passion for true stories, it has specialized in international coproduction working with European and American Countries. Indyca has been working with mainly European and North American broadcasters, dealing with public funds such as Creative EU funds, Eurimages, Ibermedia, national and regional funds. Its last successes have been selected to Venezia, Roma, IDFA, Hot Docs, and many others and then released in theaters and broadcasted on Arte, PBS among others. In recent years, beyond creative documentaries, it started to produce also scripted films with the same passion for true stories

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