Political activist & producer Jeff “The Dude” Dowd talks about film as activism

By Kyra Skylark
Flapjack Staff

Inspiration for the character, “The Dude” in the cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” Jeff Dowd is in Humboldt. Dowd, writer, producer and political activist, came to Humboldt to promote the new movie adaption of Humboldt County’s original musical, “Mary Jane – A Musical Potumentary.” Dowd was shown the film by a friend involved in the project and believing in underlying messages of the film, offered to help promote it.

“The values of the movie speak to how people create their own economy,” said Dowd.

Additionally, the film focuses greatly on the environmental degradation involved in marijuana cultivation and according to Dowd, how to live a sustainable lifestyle. To bring awareness to the film, multiple presentations, a bowling night, a movie screening of “Mary Jane,” as well as a screening of “The Big Lebowski” and few other functions have been organized.

With so many events planned to honor “The Big Lebowski” and publicize “Mary Jane,” Dowd’s visit to Humboldt State University went unnoticed by many. However, the few lucky students who saw flyers up around campus attended a discussion where Dowd gave a very different talk then those scheduled formally.

While Dowd did talk briefly on “Mary Jane,” he spoke mostly on current issues faced in the United States and allowed students to ask questions about his life. The informal Q&A touched on various intense topics on the student’s minds.

Amy Belteran, a sophomore at HSU from east LA, asked for Dowd’s opinion on the controversy over Netflix’s upcoming show, “Dear White People.” The show is based off the film released in 2014, focusing on racism and white privilege. The trailer for the show was released two days ago, and has already received intense backlash from some of the public.

“If Netflix can create a film adaption of ‘13 Reasons Why,’ a show centered around teen suicide and mental health issues, why are people boycotting Netflix because of ‘Dear White People?’” said Belteran.

Dowd surprised her with his opinion of the backlash.

“The first thing you want to do when promoting a film is to get it banned,” Dowd said.

He went on to explain that debate over a film is always the best publicity, as well as a sign that the piece is important. Controversy and debate are what Dowd wants when he is working on a film. He explained that he specifically tries to choose films that push buttons and focus on relevant issues.

Dowd was the co-executive producer for the children’s movie “FernGully,” where they worked to explain the environmental sustainability and protection to kids. There are numerous other films he worked on because of their controversial message.

Dowd’s films are acts of activism.

As the Q&A came to an end, a girl in the crowd asked what Dowd would recommend the youth do in response to the issues arising as a result of the election.

“Get involved, continue the emotional discussion and stay active,” Dowd said. “You’ll feel better and you’ll make the world better.”

After Dowd left, Roman Sanchez, the events coordinator from Dell’Arte (organizing the “Mary Jane” events,) provided valuable insight on the differences of the Q&A in comparison to the official presentations Dowd came to Humboldt for.

“Everywhere he visits he finds the local University and talks to students. Because he has such a wide range of experience he talks in many different classrooms,” said Sanchez. “One of Dowd’s greatest passions is enlightening the youth.”

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