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Eco-Odyssey

Filmmaker Ron Mann chronicles Woody Harrelson's hemp-fuelled journey down U.S. West Coast

When Ron Mann (BA 1980 Innis) was in Grade 6, he single-handedly launched a school protest against the wastefulness of individually wrapped cheese slices. Since then, he has taken small steps toward saving the planet by conserving energy at home and recycling. But he didn’t recapture his youthful environmental zeal until filming the documentary Go Further, which captures actor Woody Harrelson’s road-trip crusade for earth-friendly living.

Since making the movie, the Toronto documentary filmmaker – known for chronicling such pop culture phenomena as dance crazes and comic books – has quit his two-pack-a-day smoking habit and started practising yoga and eating organic food. On the other hand, he still drives an SUV and admits to being profoundly addicted to caffeine. “I’m not all there yet,” he laughs. “But I knew early on that I wanted to be part of the solution and not the pollution. And it all got accelerated by getting on the bus.”

In the summer of 2001, Mann boarded a hemp-fuelled bus along with Harrelson and a crew of eco-converts and travelled down the U.S. Pacific Coast Highway for the Simple Organic Living Tour. Retracing Ken Kesey’s psychedelic bus trip documented in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the group visited organic farmers, worm ranchers, environmental activists and even Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

First runner-up for the AGF People’s Choice Award at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, Mann’s feature-length film has received worldwide attention. It will have a North American commercial release this spring, preceded by a private benefit screening at Innis College on Jan. 20 to raise money for OISE/UT’s Institute of Child Study. “You can attribute the new popularity of documentaries to a yearning for someone to provide some answers – someone other than the news media, which has lost credibility in delivering the truth,” says Mann. “Go Further is about offering answers.”

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