This documentary by American filmmakers Jonathan Blank and Barclay Powers gives a portrait of Holland as a modern-day citadel of individual freedom.
Primarily set in Amsterdam, it presents a country where the sale of marijuana and hashish is legally permitted. Prostitution, also permitted, is restricted to red light districts where brothels follow strict health codes and are subject to frequent inspections. The free national health system
provides for both abortion and euthanasia. About the only things that are forbidden are capital punishment and guns.
This general permissiveness has its roots in the country's earliest charter, a tradition which has long made Amsterdam a haven for the alternatively inclined. A long history of religious and social tolerance has been admirably upheld in this, one of the most densely populated of European
countries. Regulation and the law are held up as guidelines which control social problems, and this seems to work. Only three percent of the population under 19 years of age indulge in "soft" drugs. The number of AIDS cases and sexually transmitted diseases is relatively low, and prostitution is
far from rampant. Because of its healthy attitude toward sex education, the country can also pride itself on having the lowest rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy in the world, as well as the smallest prison population. Environmental issues, health care, education, and housing are
SEX, DRUGS AND DEMOCRACY partly fails as a film because, despite their obvious admiration for the country they are filming, Blank and Powers offer a meandering, laggardly Cook's tour of the city that is alternately impressive and exploitative. The red light district is played up as much as
possible.The filmmakers also seem to spend a rather unconscionable amount of time in a sex bar with a nude female writhing in the customers' faces. There are interviews with any number of local characters, from professional pot growers to keepers of the most unlikely sorts of museums. What is
amazing here is how complacently boring it all seems after a while. It is as if, without strictures, the populace just drifts off into a universally accepting blandness that is, in its own way, a kind of suffocation. Most of the interviewees have a self-satisfied, smug air about them that
engenders a rather unfortunate response in the viewer. Amsterdam seems like a great place for a quick wicked getaway, but there is not much reason to stick around too long. (Nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: This documentary by American filmmakers Jonathan Blank and Barclay Powers gives a portrait of Holland as a modern-day citadel of individual freedom. Primarily set in Amsterdam, it presents a country where the sale of marijuana and hashish is legally permi… (more)