MAY 28, 2015 - 9:26 PM
“It’s all fucking real.” Or, at least that’s what David High and Roland Jointz tell viewers in High There, a dark, docu-comedy about their adventures in Hawaii as David tries to become the Rick Steves of pot. David and Ron are the alter egos of TV producer and writer Wayne Darwen and his videographer Henry Goren, respectively. David High is a washed out television tabloid producer who describes himself as the dirtiest, most unethical bastard in the business.
David is out of work and options in L.A., so he comes up with an idea to produce a TV series that is a travel show for stoners, a guide to the best places to get high in the world. David convinces his friend and sidekick, Roland, to join him and help foot the bill for the first episode in the series, and off they go. His vision is to find the best marijuana growers all over the world and get paid to smoke and drink, and maybe enjoy a little action on the side. The character of David reminds one of the old Army preacher in the Muppet skit featuring Peter Sellers singing, “Cigarettes, and whisky, and wild, wild, women...” making it hard for viewers to take David’s mansplaining seriously or be offended by it. The situations that David drags Roland and himself into are just absurdly funny.
High There doesn’t ever make it beyond the first stop in their investigative path as David and Roland become ensconced in the local culture alongside characters like “E girl,” “Surfer Dave,” and “Alien Tom,” the TV series goes by the wayside. This isn’t to say that High There is without drama—drama and conniving are front and center as David confronts Roseanne Barr, the Feds, and his addiction problem. As the documentary progresses it becomes clear that David is making it up as he goes along, which does not bode well for Roland’s situation. David’s personality however, is not the apologetic type, and even when paranoia kicks in, it’s every man for himself.
Wayne Darwen’s legacy has often been compared to that of Hunter S Thompson’s; in other words, Darwen did for tabloid television programming what Thompson did for Gonzo journalism, taking it in a completely different direction and creating a world in media that didn’t previously exist. Darwen developed the 1980s TV series A Current Affair, which has served as a template for sensationalist mainstream media shows—think of Fox News as one of its most extreme byproducts. Darwen gained worldwide notoriety for his televised interviews with “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz in 1993. In the interviews Berkowitz claimed the murders were the work of a satanic cult. High There itself is a project that seems to have come together from the haphazard synthesis of living off the cuff and a lifetime of production experience. As it turns out David and Ron’s arrival to the island coincided with a crackdown on the cannabis industry as well as ongoing detention of Roger Christie who founded the THC Ministry, which offered cannabis as a part of its services. David High was contacted by Christie’s wife to help bring media attention to the prolonged incarceration with alleged lack of due process. The fortuitous course of events give High There newsworthy substance. When Darwen and Goren returned to mainland they worked with producer Burt Kearns to forge High There out of all the hours of tape, takes, and narratives the pair had compiled. High There has made its rounds through the film festival circuit and will be released on DVD and On Demand in North America on June 23, 2015. While viewers can take advantage of these options, there’s nothing like seeing the rantings of high-flying and comical character on the big screen. To be fair, Darwen may be a little bit like David High, but unlike the latter, the former is an icon of his era.