Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Ravit Markus Is Helping To Change Our World

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Showing my film around the country is a great way to open peoples’ minds and hearts, and even better: best would be to show my film in congress so our leaders will understand why this is important in regard to social justice and equity.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ravit Markus.

Documentary filmmaker Ravit Markus is now starting the festival release of her latest documentary feature American Pot Story: Oaksterdam which she directed with her life partner Dan Katzir. They worked on it for 12 years chronicling the historical change in cannabis policy that took place in the US since 2010. Her previous documentary features include the critically acclaimed Yiddish Theater: A Love Story which became a cultural phenomenon when it commercially played in theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Tel Aviv for months garnering raving reviews in the NY Times, LA Times, and the NY Magazine, to name a few. She currently has in the works a documentary feature about Paralympic badminton player Nina Gorodetsky.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Growing up I was interested in all arts and tried all forms of creative expression, but nothing was a perfect fit. Then when I was 15 I heard about an arts high school that had a filmmaking major and suddenly I felt like my life had been a blur up til that moment at which everything came into focus. I instantly realized that I would dedicate my life to film — the art that combines all other arts. It has never changed since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

As mentioned above, I majored in film in high school. When I shot my final thesis film my mom’s cousin was supposed to play one of the roles, but he had a heart attack days before the shoot and I had to scramble to find a replacement. Then while we were filming an outdoors scene one day there was a surprisingly strong windstorm that was not typical at all to the place or season. Later on, I watched a documentary that will become one of my favorites: Los in La Mancha and saw the great Terry Gilliam with a budget that was a million times mine, struggling with the exact same issues! I later brought the editor of La Mancha, Jacob Bricca, to consult on the editing of American Pot Story: Oaksterdam.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

The most interesting people I interact with are the ones who end up in my documentaries. I wouldn’t have spent years following them otherwise. The most recent example is a woman named Dale Sky Jones. We met her in 2010 when she was merely the spokesperson for Prop 19, the measure to tax and regulate cannabis in California, and we followed her for a decade as she found her calling and became an influential advocate on a national level. President Biden’s recent statement regarding the havoc wreaked by the war on drugs, directly reflects Dale’s important work over the years.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

As a Jew who grew up with pictures and stories of the family members who perished in the Holocaust, I am most inspired by people’s humane choices when faced with that evil. One of them is Janusz Korszak, who ran an orphanage in Poland and was repeatedly offered refuge yet in 1942 went into the gas chambers to die with his orphans so they wouldn’t face their horrific death alone.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

The social justice aspect of the war on drugs was the main reason I started working on our l documentary American Pot Story: Oaksterdam. I was heartbroken to find out the drug laws are implemented in such a discriminatory fashion in the USA and felt that by following people who are working to change the policy I’ll be able to have an impact in that arena. Because our film is about policy and not about the benefits of marijuana, we were able to show earlier cuts in churches to start a conversation from a standpoint of compassion. Some of those churches were in Colorado and Washington in 2012 and I feel I had a little contribution to those states being the first to legalize.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

As part of our research, I attended a UCLA talk by Kyle Kazan, a retired police officer from an organization called LEAP (Law Enforcement Action Partnership), and hearing him back things I believed in with facts and stats I didn’t know, was mind-blowing and convinced me this is an extremely worthy cause.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I believe the people who will be released from prisons and jails and others who will have their records expunged thanks to President Biden’s latest steps are all the results of thousands of people who have been championing this cause for many years. It was an honor and a privilege to follow them and learn from them what it takes to transpire change in America.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Showing my film around the country is a great way to open peoples’ minds and hearts, and even better: best would be to show my film in congress so our leaders will understand why this is important in regard to social justice and equity.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Reading depressing news is a tad less depressing when you feel you are involved in some shape or form in the work to make this a better world.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would like to collaborate with Michelle Alexander, who wrote “The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness”, arguably the most important book about the damage the implementation of our federal drug policies is causing to the black community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When someone says, “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay,” it’s usually a reason to worry. If there’s nothing to worry about, then the person should be able to clearly explain why you’re all set. If not, it usually means the projector will not work well when you’re playing your film, or the sound won’t come out crystal clear etc. Film is a very technical art so there are plenty of things to worry about.

How can our readers follow you online?

Would be great if they sign our email list on our website: or follow other social networks: IG/FB@AmericanPotStory Twitter: ThePotStory.

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Ravit Markus Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.