The Nashville Scene reported that his 7-year nightmare was over. I met him as a vibrant 67-year-old when he spoke to a group I attended that was formed after the women's march last winter. He was still fighting to win back some of his rights so he could run for public office.
It was formally owned by Betye Kelley, the country midwife, and her husband. Over her lifetime she birthed over 500 babies and according to Bernie Ellis, the current resident, only lost one.
He has endeared himself to hundreds of people in his community over the years that have come to know his story and love him. When he asked people he knew to step forward and write a letter on his behalf for his court case to restore his citizenship rights, hundreds did so including the owner of the local town diner and the county sheriff.
Bernie was bush hogging a pasture in 2002 when he noticed a helicopter circling above him. When it lowered to just over the treetops in a tight circle, he knew his life was about to change forever. Trace View farm was raided by the police that day and over 100 mostly small cannabis plants were confiscated as evidence by the police. Those plants had only around seven pounds of usable medical cannabis estimated to be on them. For almost 15 years, Bernie had been growing cannabis. Besides using it himself for his own ailments, including a degenerative spine and fibromyalgia, he was providing it for free to terminal AIDS and Cancer patients that he knew or who were referred to him.
Turns out, Bernie knew a lot of them. He worked, before his arrest, for the Tennesse Department of Health and the CDC, setting up Tennessee’s AIDS program during the hight of the epidemic. He knew a lot of people that were dying and suffering and he also knew pot could help them. After he admitted growing medical cannabis, Bernie went from earning over $100,000 per year in his field to living on food stamps unable to find work with an arrest record.
As you enjoy a meal at many of Nashville’s fine dining establishments this summer, Bernie’s blueberries will probably be on the dessert menu.
It’s about a community of people that support him in his efforts and about the ghost of Ms. Kelley that watches over him and the beauty of Trace View Farm. It's about standing up in the face of injustice and speaking truth to power. It's about looking out for your neighbors and doing the right thing even when there is a personal risk.
This film is also about changing hearts and minds and changing the law. It's about the need to overturn the prohibition of a plant and recognizing the benefits of cannabis plants that can help a lot of people.
About the filmmaker...
Valerie Whitcomb is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter with 20 years experience in video production as well. She has produced music and corporate videos. She has produced and sold footage of other people's work including a feature documentary about Jimi Hendrix and the documentary 50 Watt fuse about Saturday Night Live guitar player G.E. Smith. In addition to The Blueberry Farmer, she is also producing a web series and documentary about singer & songwriter Dianne Davison.
This is an all or nothing campaign to finish production and post-production. After we reach our initial goal we are shooting to raise additional funds for marketing, the film festival tour, and distribution.
Marketing, publicity, and materials
The festival tour
Theatrical weeks in NY and LA to get Oscar-qualified and digital distribution
Join our movement and be the change you want to see in the world.
Risks and challenges
When it comes to finishing this documentary in the time period planned, a few things in the process will be out off my hands. I plan to hire someone else to do color correction and sound design for the film. Also, when it is complete, I will produce physical DVD's and each of these completion dates will be determined by the people delivering the services. The interviews with Bernie and the footage at Trace View farm as well as locations around Nashville and middle Tennessee have already been recorded. I am doing my own editing on the film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)