In Matthew Salton’s short doc, a 77yr old ex-flight attendant recalls her time smuggling marijuana into the US.
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“An incredible real-life story, a distinct animated aesthetic, viral potential and an attention-grabbing title, Matthew Salton’s unusual documentary short Patty Are You Bringing Weed in from Jamaica? has everything needed to make it a successful online short (it was probably one of the easiest programming choices we had to make in 2020). The tale of one of the first female weed smugglers in the USA, PAYBWIFJ employs lurid visuals (described by a fellow S/Wer as a “touch terrifying”) to take its viewers on a psychedelic trip through the world of drug smuggling in the late ’60s.
“She was sleeping in a house that had a large wolf as a pet”, Salton’s short was motivated by the experience of the director’s friend, who was working on a weed farm when she met Patty – the cook for the cannabis pickers. After discovering that “she might be the first woman weed smuggler”, Salton decided he had to meet her and flew down to California to hear what she had to say.
Though Patty had been approached to tell her story in the past, she hadn’t yet felt ready to divulge the details of her highly illegal adventures. Salton obviously picked the perfect time to ask however, as when he called to enquire whether she was open to sharing her story she simply replied: “Honey, I’m old enough now, it doesn’t matter”.
When they met in person, Salton was drawn to her “warm and hilarious” nature and though of course, he recognised the appeal in turning Patty’s crazy exploits into a film, he also recognised a more relatable element to her story. “It’s a story about a woman who’s driven and motivated to do her thing within this world that was all dominated by men”, the director explains as we discuss the motivation behind Patty Are You Bringing Weed in from Jamaica? .
“There’s also something about this plant that made her take these risks”, Salton adds, exploring his deeper attraction to Patty’s story. “The Rastas trusted her to take this weed and spread it. It was important to her. So she was a messenger in a way, spreading this plant, crossing borders. She supplied her weed backstage at Woodstock with the musical acts and management behind the festival”
Although the tale at the heart of Salton’s documentary short is amazing in its own right, the filmmaker really brings Patty’s story to life with an animation that feels perfectly fitting for a film centred around a strain of marijuana of a “psychedelic potency unheard of in the US”. Consisting of photographs from the time, text on screen and warped vivid illustrations, it’s hard to think of a more suitable style for such a strange and intoxicating narrative.
After editing the audio of the interview together into a framework for his film, Salton created the visuals himself, by hand-drawing them using a Cintiq and iPad. Adding the boil effect to create the wiggly line look of his animation, the film was originally planned to be black-and-white (like Salton’s previous S/W feature Richard Twice) before he eventually decided colour would be essential to the success of the film. Although he describes the process as “many many many hours at the end”, we’re really glad he opted for that garish palette in the end, as we couldn’t imagine the film without it.” – S/W Curator Rob Munday
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.