Get Ready for SPLIFF, the Stoner Film Festival

'Dank Savage' gets kind his ‘film festival made by the stoned for the stoned' (May 3-4, at the Victoria Theatre).

Courtesy of Spliff Film Festival

Syndicated columnist Dan Savage has brought his frothy mixture of sex advice and humor to the pages of SF Weekly for years, and it gets better every time his traveling amateur porn show, the HUMP! Film Festival, comes to San Francisco. Now Savage has a marijuana movie show touring the West Coast, and his highly entertaining SPLIFF Film Fest screens at the Victoria Theatre on Friday and Saturday, May 3-4.

We spoke to the author of Savage Love and host of the Savage Lovecast about his cinema sinsemilla venture, a collection of cannabis-themed short films that intends to “celebrate recreational marijuana use and its liberating effects on our imaginations, appetites, libidos, and creative energies.”

“We all know there’s things we like to watch when we’re stoned,” Savage tells SF Weekly. “We basically invited people to create those things they like to watch when they’re stoned, and share them with a stoned audience.”

Like HUMP!, SPLIFF is an anthology of user-submitted shorts created by Savage’s subversive fans. The results will have audiences rolling in the aisles at this treasury of stoner cartoons, blunt-rolling tutorials, and vignettes that achieve comic transcendence in their low-budget stupidity.     

“There were 250 films submitted, which is a lot,” he says. “We wanted to curate it stoned. So we all got really fucking stoned and sat down and watched all 250 movies over the course of a 15-hour day. Then we had lively debates about which films to include. I was so stoned that I know we put together an excellent program, but I don’t remember anything.

“But I have it on good authority that it’s a great festival,” Savage insists. “I’m looking forward to the first screenings, because they’re going to be as much of a surprise for me as they are for the audience, even though I sat through all of the films.”

SF Weekly has sneak-previewed SPLIFF, and we can confirm that Savage is not blowing smoke. It kicks off with a magnificently edited, extremely funny set of opening credits that immediately tell you this is not some rehashed, Cheech & Chong throwback. SPLIFF has an eclectic range of voices and perspectives that give the stoner-humor genre a badly needed update.

While there are smatterings of nudity and man-on-man action, it’s more a PG-13 kind of affair than Savage’s previous filthy film fests.

“There were a lot of filmmakers and folks who didn’t want to take part in HUMP!, necessarily,” he admits. “The bar is set kind of high to be in HUMP! You’ve got to make porn.”

So SPLIFF is a joint effort created by stoners, for stoners, and about stoners. Every one of its 24 eclectic short films — from comedy sketches to stylized music videos to mockumentaries — is short, sweet, and stoned.

“I’m a pothead myself,” Savage says, surprising no one. “One of the things that happens is sometimes when you’re super-stoned, your attention span is short. We just thought the five-minute max film length for HUMP! would work really well for kind of a stoner festival.”

High-lights include a deep conversation between a bag of Doritos and a package of Oreos, a sardonic lesbian-dating-app tale of the heart, and a scary satire on why budtenders are so conspicuously cheerful. But the short films also take stabs at the horror, erotica, and trippy visual effect genres.

“It’s not necessarily a comedy festival, because it’s open to anything,” he tells us. “People could make mini-documentaries, or commentary, or whatever they wanted to do. Just like HUMP!, some of the films are serious, some are not serious.”

SPLIFF is already touring the country, with screenings in legal-weed states. The 4/20 show will of course be in Seattle, Savage’s adopted hometown (and from which he writes Savage Love in its flagship alt-biweekly newspaper The Stranger). And Washington State had the distinction of getting recreational marijuana even before California did.

“We were a little ahead of the curve,” Savage says. “It almost felt like we were in a legal-weed state before 2012.”

While Savage identifies as a stoner, he does not himself smoke weed. (“I’m an edible-only guy, because I don’t smoke,” he admits.) But since it’s still illegal for companies to transport any form of cannabis product across state lines, that makes every different legal state an edible adventure unto itself.

“Each state has its own cornucopia of edibles, because there’s no interstate commerce in recreational marijuana. You can’t buy the gummies in California that you can get here and vice versa.

“That’s one of the things I enjoy very much, going to Portland or going to San Francisco, and heading to the pot shop and seeing all these different brands and different kinds and flavors. It’s really lovely and unique, and I hope when pot’s legal nationwide we don’t end up with, like, the Mars Bars of pot, and all the candies and gummies everywhere are exactly the same. I hope we can preserve these unique brands.”

We regret to inform you that Dan Savage will not be coming to San Francisco to appear in person at the SPLIFF Film Festival screenings here. But he does have high hopes that you’ll come to this marijuana film festival that’s all good, giving, and ganja.

“We want everyone to come check out SPLIFF and enjoy it,” he tells SF Weekly. “Kind of like HUMP!, if you have a good time and you like it and you want there to be more SPLIFFs, think about making your own film and entering.

“There’s everything from really professionally made films to stuff people shot on their phones,” he adds, “It runs the gamut and it’s really fun, if I remember correctly. And I think I do? We’ll see.”

SPLIFF Film Festival, Friday, May 3, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 4, 7 p.m., at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, $20; 415-863-7576 or splifffilmfest.com

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