Spliff Film Fest: Movies by stoners, for stoners

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Spliff Film Fest
BAKED A screenshot from ‘Candy Sandwich,’ featuring Gabby La La (left) and Sayuri. Photo courtesy of Gabby La La.

Someone, somewhere, once said, “People who remember the ’60s weren’t really there.” Or something like that. Whoever uttered the quip doesn’t matter. It’s not true. I remember my LSD trips, my mescaline experiences and the first time I got stoned, had a bad case of the munchies and ate a quart of strawberry ice cream.

In the spirit of marijuana, the munchies and more, two brilliant Asian-American comedians and videographers created a very funny award-winning short film titled Candy Sandwich. At the 2019 Spliff Film Festival it took the much-deserved prize for “funniest.”

Gabby La La, of Oakland, and Sayuri, of Portland, are the two boundary-breaking videographers who aren’t afraid to look ridiculous in front of the camera. Their antics prompt hysterical laughter from viewers. Sometimes, the videographers themselves can’t keep a straight face.

During a phone conversation, Gabby stepped out from her on-screen role to talk about the current wave of hate crimes against Asian-Americans. “We stand in solidarity with our Asian-American brothers and sisters,” she said. “When we turn the camera on ourselves, we try to emphasize beauty, love and friendship.”

Candy Sandwich falls into a genre known as “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” or ASMR. It’s been described as “a relaxing meditative experience” that’s triggered by sounds and images.

Candy Sandwich works as a spoof on those deadly serious TV cooking shows, and also as a send-up of cannabis culture and stoners.

The Spliff Film Festival, which bills itself as a place “where filmmakers, artists, animators, and stoners share original shorts that examine and/or celebrate cannabis and its liberating effects on our imaginations, appetites, libidos, and creative energies,” is the perfect home for Gabby’s and Sayuri’s masterpiece.

BTW the word “spliff” comes from Jamaica, the home of ganja, the Rastafarians and reggae royals like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff.

In Candy Sandwich, Gabby wears purple hair and a black hat with a pompon. Sayuri wears long hair and a tie-dyed T-shirt. They both sport mustaches that look hand drawn.

Step one highlights an ordinary croissant, which they turn it into a fantasmagoric object that ought to be in a surrealist art museum. While Sayuri slices the croissant in half, Gabby looks at the camera, and in a motherly tone of voice says, “If you’re a child, make sure an adult is present.”

Once the croissant is open and inviting, the women coat both sides with Hersey’s chocolate syrup, add wafer cookies for “crunch,” sour candies in place of pickles and Skittles for color.

Gabby says, “Eat a rainbow in every meal,” as though to mock the U.S. Department of Agriculture food guidelines. Then, the duo touts their sandwich as a model of fresh, natural and seasonal. To top off the skit, they thank cultural icon, Betty Crocker, for sponsoring their show. I don’t want to give away the ending, though I’ll say it’s perfect.

Gabby and Sayuri took a couple of years off to make quilts and babies, but now they’re back. At this year’s virtual festival, April 16–24, the duo have a new entry, Friendship Cake, which won’t be screened until the start of the festival.

Gabby’s father, Owen Lang, has a short film, titled Bong Memories, that will also be at Spliff this year. In a rare color photo with a bong, notepad and hat, he looks like a stoned artist. Born in Canton, China in 1947, the last of seven children, he came to the U.S. in 1953, studied at Harvard, became a landscape architect, worked on the planning and the design of Disneyland in France, and met and married a Jewish woman from Brooklyn. Indeed, Gabby is part Jewish, part Chinese and a real Californian.

BONG MEMORIES Filmmaker Owen Lang. Photo courtesy of Owen Lang.

Now, at the age of 73, Owen is recreating himself for the era of Facebook and Instagram and learning from Gabby. “I’m a proud father,” he says. “Gabby is the kind of daughter who keeps me young and creative with the juices flowing. I go to concerts with her and they card me!”

Long ago, Owen enjoyed bong hits, and what’s more, remembers them. “I’d get stoned and design stuff,” he says. “Bong hits helped me create the space between what’s invisible and what’s visible.”

“Has Gabby influenced you, or have you influenced her?” I ask.

“It’s a combination,” Owen replies. “She has taken after me and now I’m taking after her. You know, she’s multitalented: an artist and a musician who plays the sitar and the guitar, and she’s a mother, too. How’s that for a proud father and grandfather!”

For tickets to the Spliff Film Festival, visit bit.ly/splifffest.

Jonah Raskin has screen credit on the marijuana feature “Homegrown.”