|In an age of
multimillion-dollar blockbusters, classmates Jonathan Blank
'86 and Barclay Powers '86 have fashioned a true
Hollywood marvel, a documentary with legs. Sex, Drugs and
Democracy, which the two co-produced in 1994, offers a
provocative and sympathetic look at sex and drug policies in the
Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, intravenous drug addicts
receive free needles and methadone, and customers at "coffeeshops"
openly purchase marijuana. The film, which Blank directed, earned
over $1 million when it toured art movie houses and is now doing
brisk business as a video rental.
Although Entertainment Weekly characterized it as a "pro-pot" documentary, the film is really a paean to Dutch tolerance and pragmatism. Having abandoned efforts to eradicate prostitution and drug use as futile, the Netherlands instead has opted for regulation in the hope of protecting prostitutes, drug addicts--and society at large. Indeed, the Dutch example suggests that a climate of freedom and tolerance can actually reduce crime. As Blank is quick to point out, despite laws that other democracies condemn as permissive, the Netherlands has a lower teen pregnancy rate, a lower abortion rate, less heroin and marijuana usage, and spends one third as much per capita on drug-related law enforcement as the United States. It also has an incarceration rate that is one-tenth that of the United States.
Now the film is getting the chance to influence American public policy. Steven Markoff, chairman of the A-Mark Financial Corporation (a Fortune 500 company), was so impressed that he distributed copies to the California legislature, the U.S. Congress and to President Clinton.
The duo previously collaborated on Collecting America, a documentary on the baseball memorabilia business. Their newest project, also directed by Blank, is Anarchy TV: A Revolutionary Comedy, which played at film festivals in New Orleans, Las Vegas and Cork, Ireland. A satire of a televangelist's effort to shut down a public-access TV show aired by a band of local anarchists, the film stars Alan Thicke, the children of rock icon Frank Zappa, and George Wendt, with a special appearance by Dr. Timothy Leary. It should be in American theatres this winter.
Sex, Drugs and Democracy is available for $24.95 from Red Hat Productions (www.anarchytv.com).