I cringed at first but then I started laughing and the film kept me laughing all the way through.
“High There” is not your normal documentary.
The film follows a burnt out television producer to Hawaii where he plans to make a pilot for a travel show for stoners, documenting the world’s best places to buy marijuana and get high.
What follows is one disaster after another as the producer Dave High bumbles along, descending into a drink and drug filled debauchery, all the while being filmed by his gas mask wearing cameraman, Roland Jointz.
Sounds bizarre? It is, but it’s wildly entertaining.
Part documentary and mockumentary, it’s a film in the “Gonzo” style and it’s often hard to separate fact from fiction. Dave High keeps you guessing as he intersperses seemingly true events with conjecture about being under DEA surveillance, using film footage of backpackers sitting outside his window, and passing helicopters, as evidence. As the film progresses you realise that maybe not much of it is fact and stop taking the film as a serious document of events and enjoy it for what it is.
Dave High is actually expat Australian, Wayne Darwen, a well known producer of tabloid TV shows such as Hard Copy and Geraldo Rivera’s “Now It Can Be Told”. He is said to be the inspiration behind the character of newsman Wayne Gale in Oliver Stone’s film, Natural Born Killers.
Like a modern day Hunter S Thompson, Wayne’s alter-ego Dave High, constantly teases the weird and wonderful characters that have made the Big Island their home while at the same time making fun of himself.
He stumbles from one drug filled misadventure to another, coughing and hacking his way through the day while rolling joints, downing drink after drink and befriending lonely middle aged women.
He manages throughout, despite an often inebriated state, to maintain a witty repartee both with his long suffering cameraman and those around him. His capacity for beer is phenomenal and comments like, “after a couple of beers she started to look quite attractive” make you laugh and groan at the same time. In fact he is living a lifestyle that secretly many of us would probably like to indulge in at some time but don't for fear of the consequences. Dave High doesn't seem to care and instead moves from one good time to another.
One wonders how the human body can withstand so much punishment and Dave High’s constant lung wrenching smoker’s cough is testament to the wild lifestyle he seems to be living.
Eventually Dave High stumbles across the story of Roger Christie, leader of the THC Ministry, and who at the time of filming, had been held for 4 years without bail for possession and sale of cannabis. But to learn more you need to watch the film.
The filming of “High There” must have been a lot of fun and it shows what can be done with a couple of hand held cameras and a small budget.
I am sure it’s destined to become a cult movie and will no doubt do wonders for tourism in the Puna region of the Big Island, although maybe not attracting the type of tourists the authorities would want.
Make sure you watch the credits at the end!
Watch the trailer here: