Life couldn’t possibly imitate art any more than in the event that hordes of rappers, DJs, and cannabis activists make a film about selling drugs. It’s certainly happened before, though for the most part, ballers on steroidal budgets tend to make things too dramatic (see: Get Rich or Die Tryin’: The Movie). By the time Hollywood hacks get their paws on the script and designers who have never been south of the poverty line start prettying sets, the result is more often than not something akin to Belly, which is one hell of a fantasy but rather light on reality.
Sea of Green, on the other hand, is a growling nauseated stomach to Belly‘s tummy ache. Local and gritty, let’s just say that nobody will soon be accusing this film’s writer, director, and co-star Myster DL of glamorizing drugs. Think something more along the lines of the Boston web reality show Quiet Desperation, but farther on the supply side of the game, and with a lot more gunplay.
Imagine Lowell, Massachusetts, sometime between 2010 and now. Not like the particular moment in time it makes a difference, the post-industrial landscape there being less inviting than a wrestling ring for decades. On this grimey and desolate landscape, cops and criminals look and sound a lot alike, tapered beards and Masshole accents, with both gangs fighting over the same patches of broken turf where even kingpins live in clapboard tenements. In other words, it’s a portayal of where your dope and smoke actually come from. Sorry to burst the bubble of any yuppie users, but most ounces have never seen the inside of a mansion in Miami.
It’s here that we find Philip Waters, played by Boston MC Alias, a middle class office bug who likes to smoke weed on his lunch breaks. After that routine lands dude on unemployment, he winds up losing his apartment, his girl, and more or less everything but his weed connect, played by writer-director DL. On the skids, Waters returns to his college days of selling trees, which brings him to the annual Freedom Rally on Boston Common for a rap star-studded montage featuring everyone from Boston staples like DJ Slipwax and Ripshop to ubiquitous icons like Cypress Hill and Onyx. From there, however, as these things tend to go, things crash rather hard for Waters.
As the protagonist’s ex-girlfriend colludes with a shitbag detective, played convincingly by longtime Lawrence rapper DraMatik, he takes up nugget-trimming, then makes a ham-fisted attempt at growing, then slides down a slope full of slippery bastards, most of whom are played by rappers of the underground variety from Edo.G to D-Tension to King Magnetic. There are far too many cameos to mention, but hip-hop fans won’t be disappointed by the soundtrack or the Name Game you can play as subterranean legends surface in all scenes. (Same goes for the marijuana crowd, as the flick features, among others, High Times honcho Danny Danko, the dearly departed K.O.P., and DigBoston‘s very own Mike Cann.)
While Sea of Green is a tale of street woes on one hand, and a damn believable one at that, the movie also stands on its comedic moments and bursts of inspired writing. When the main character played by Alias gets stuck for an eighth of weed, he asks the thief to at least get him stoned: “I need to get something out of this. My life sucks.” The humor hits best in scenes where he and DL are simply hanging out together, which is fitting since the world of drug deals is a world of couches, living rooms, and video games, perhaps interrupted by the occassional pizza delivery.
Without getting into spoilers (if you’ve read this far, then I can only assume you’re going to cop and watch the whole flick), I’ll just say that Sea of Green eventually leads to Northern California, a wide-open green orchard to Lowell’s depressing concrete jungle. DL tells DigBoston, “I even fooled Cali people by scouting out locations that could pass for the [soil-rich] Redwood Forest … because not every tree is a Redwood, ferns help fool the eye and time of day … If you are from the Redwood Forest are you know not much light is getting down to the forest floor … I wanted to keep stupid shit like that authentic.”
Not everything is perfect; DL says he also shot b-roll in the Adirondacks in Vermont, but that unlike in Cali, there were no patches cut out of the hillside from previous grows. “People in Humboldt noticed that,” he laughed. Nevertheless, having sat on countless couches myself and even visited a few fields in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll attest that Sea of Green remains realer than most reflections on the cat and mouse charade that cops play with street dealers everywhere. And when hip-hop is the bedrock of your product, as it certainly is here, reality seems an appropriate end game.
Join Myster DL and all sorts of Sea of Green cast members for a party at Good Life in Boston TONIGHT 11.13
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.