Becca Beberaggi

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On January 13th, the eclectic venue House of Yes will be hosting The NYC Cannabis Film Festival. This festival was founded by cannabis activist, founder of High NY and author of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis,”  Michael Zaytsev. This year he returns to the screen to showcase films themed around the topic of cannabis. The genre categories will include: comedy, drama, romance, music videos, documentaries, and hybrid films.

Flyer courtesy of House of Yes.

Bushwick Daily had the pleasure of chatting with Zaytsev about the festival. Zaytsev shared more about his passion for cannabis and how he is trying to change the way it is viewed in the current political climate.

Bushwick Daily: Hey Michael. So what’s this festival about? What’s your origin story?

Michael Zaytsev: This festival is about celebrating cannabis culture and creativity. It’s also about promoting Cannabis positive media to undo the stigma against cannabis and those who use it. A stigma that was proliferated by the media: Reefer Madness, yellow journalism, and even the nightly news.

In 2015, when I was hitting my stride with High NY events, I wanted to mix it up from my usual educational guest speaker and networking format. In my life, cannabis has facilitated social connection, friendship, and fun. I wanted to do a more playful event without breaking the law.

My goal is to raise awareness about cannabis and I figured it’d be easier to get some people educated and inspired about the movement via film rather than going to a symposium type event.

BD: So obviously these films will cover the topic of “cannabis,” but were there any other criteria required for filmmakers to be accepted as well?

MZ: Not really, just be cool and produce high art.

BD: What are your personal thoughts on cannabis?

MZ: I love it! I’m very passionate about cannabis. It continues to provide me with a lot of healing, growth, and fulfillment. I view it as a powerful tool for personal development when used responsibly. It’s time to work with the plant and leverage its power for healing our planet and people, instead of using it to demonize communities of color.

BD: Are there any films you are especially excited to show and why?

MZ: I’m excited about all of them! I really like “City of Dreams” because it’s stunningly beautiful and captures some awesome NYC visuals. As a Cannabis ambassador and advocate, I have a soft spot in my heart for “The Secret Story: How Medical Marijuana Was Re-Legalized in the US.” Most people don’t know how the Cannabis movement began and this film really tells that story and celebrates the life of OG activist, Dennis Peron.   

BD: How are films judged?

A few lucky people get together, we get high, watch the films, and puff puff pass judgement.

BD: Why did you choose House of Yes as a home for this year’s festival?

MZ: It’s a high honor to host the event at House of Yes. It’s literally one of the coolest places on the planet! What better place to host the NYC Cannabis Film Festival? For me it’s especially significant, because in 2016 I delivered my TEDx talk “Thinking Differently About Cannabis,” which covers my thoughts on Cannabis.

BD: What are you hoping people take away when leaving a screening?

MZ: I want people to leave with a higher consciousness around the cannabis plant and the global paradigm shift that we’re living through right now. I want people to leave feeling joy, peace, and satisfaction after watching dope films. I want people to leave feeling more connected to their own humanity and to the High NY community. I want people to feel empowered knowing that a kid from Brooklyn made it all happen with some elbow grease, some weed, and a smile and that they can make their dreams happen too.

The festival runs all day January 13th, 2019 at House of Yes starting at 12pm. You can purchase tickets and check out the festival schedule here.

Cover image courtesy of the NYC Cannabis Film Festival.

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