GRASSLAND, from Executive Producer COMMON, will be LALIFF’s Closing Night film

By Oliver Carnay

GRASSLAND, a riveting social justice drama highlighting the perils of marijuana incarceration, will be the Closing Night Film of the 23rd Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), slated from May 29 through June 2.  Grassland will screen on Sunday, June 2, 7:00 p.m. at TCL Chinese Theaters Auditorium 1.
Exploring the failures of the criminal justice system from a unique angle, Grassland follows a single Laina mother whose illegal marijuana business is jeopardized when her young son befriends their new neighbors – a white boy and his police officer grandfather.  
The film stars Mia Maestro, Quincy Isaiah, Jeff Kober, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, and Rachel Ticotin, and directed by William Bermudez & Sam Friedman, who also co-wrote it.
Statement from Directors Bermudez & Friedman:
The film was inspired by Will and my lived experiences.  In high school, my mother started growing weed in her bedroom.  I didn’t realize how much her decision would change our lives.  Suddenly, my friends couldn’t come over, and I was sworn to secrecy due to ever-growing fears over the risk of her being incarcerated.  For a long time, I harbored resentment at my mother and a crushing desire for suburban normalcy.
Will’s father immigrated to the United States from Argentina as a boy, sacrificing his community and culture in the process.  Without roots, he was forced to adapt to his new surroundings, even though he quietly longed for belonging.
Our film draws from these lived experiences, exploring how the racial, economic, and gendered familial differences expose the biases that link whiteness, toxic masculinity, and wealth to moral and legal high grounds and normalcy in the United States.  American culture has a narrowly defined view of a law-abiding, white, nuclear family with a patriarchal father, devoted mother, responsible son, and obedient daughter.
Growing up with a single mother who grows weed for money, Leo, one of our main characters, struggles to reconcile his reality with the illusion of normalcy.  He is too young to see his mother as a fighter who is trying to carve out space in this broken system, and through his perspective, the audience can also glimpse the injustice she faces.  Through our film, we hope to not only correct the wrong of under-representation in the media, but also to push for the justice of marginalized people in society today.