Smoke screen: First ever marijuana-themed film festival lights up theaters across the country

Courtesy of SPLIFF Film Festival

“Hey, stoner, why don’t you get off your ass, make a short film, and make some cash?”

Such was the motivational tagline for SPLIFF. The new pot-oriented film festival premiered this spring for stoners of all stripes – provided they were able to get off the couch to witness it.

Created by advice columnist and podcast host Dan Savage, SPLIFF is the first festival of its kind. Filmmakers, animators and artists were given a runtime limit of four minutes and 20 seconds for their submissions, which were received by an audience of approximately 3,000 in the festival’s first year.

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Savage explained, “You get stoned and you go to the movies. Or, you get stoned and you binge watch TV. Or, you get stoned and you go lay in the park and look at the clouds.”

“A lot of being stoned is putting something in front of your face to let it roll into your brain. So, we thought, there’s probably a film festival in that too!” Savage said.


Topics ranged from trippy animation to comedic shorts, brief documentaries and even faux-propaganda films – “think ‘Reefer Madness’ ridiculousness or D.A.R.E. scare tactics,” explains the festival’s submission page.

“Munchies Massacre” explores the plight faced by a personified throng of Doritos and Oreos, who commiserate over the friends they’ve lost to late-night snacking. Eventually, they end up running away in horror from a stoner monster.

In the stop-motion animation “Joint Heights,” roaches come to life and do yoga, thrash to heavy metal, and even hook up with each other. Huh? Hey, it’s a festival “made by stoners, for stoners,” so the nonsensical is to be expected.

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SPLIFF premiered in Denver on April 13, just in time for 4/20. From there, the festival ventured to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, and just wrapped up last weekend in Bellingham, Wash. Viewers across these weed-friendly cities voted for their favorite films in four categories – ‘Trippiest,’ ‘Funniest,’ ‘Stupidest,’ and ‘Best in Show’ – and over $10,000 in cash prizes was doled out by SPLIFF this month.


‘Trippiest’ was awarded to “Fully Froggo,” the relatable saga of eating too many edible gummies from the perspective of a frog. ‘Funniest’ went to Oakland-based ASMR artists Sayuri and Gabby La La for their tingle-inducing “Candy Sandwich.” The esteemed award of ‘Stupidest’ was received by Courtney Kehr for “Kevin’s Proclamation,” a distorted, kaleidoscopic view of a presumably stoned man yelling out, “I love you, man!”

The top prize of $5,000 for ‘Best in Show’ went to “Smokescreen,” about a woman who gets stoned just to experience some excitement after a dull date. Unluckily for her, she winds up trapped in the reality of online dating.

Following April’s decriminalization in New Mexico, SPLIFF will make its way to Albuquerque on September 21-22.

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