Produced by the United States Department of Agriculture for the War Department in 1942, this 14-minute film was targeted at farmers, to convince them to grow a hemp crop in the 1943 growing season. Some call this a propaganda film, but it is more like a “persuasive documentary”.
The film very briefly gets into the history of hemp, and shows some examples of its usages, mainly in nautical applications, but including fire hoses, clothing and footwear for the military and parachute webbing (the cordage, not the lightweight silk) for the paratroopers.
The film does not get into the marijuana debate, it only talks about the utilitarian uses for hemp. It is mentioned in the film that it is Cannabis Sativa that is grown for hemp, which is accurate then and today. Activists for recreational marijuana, however, like to promote the film using the same “foot in the door” strategy they use with promoting medical marijuana. These supporters will take every opportunity to claim that hemp and marijuana are two totally different plants.
A point of clarification is required here. Marijuana and hemp are two different uses of the cannabis plant. The Cannabis Sativa strain is preferred for hemp, while Cannabis Indica is typically favoured for use as a recreational drug. Both can be grown for hemp, both can be grown for THC, both can cross-pollenate to produce a hybrid strain. They are effectively the same plant.
Anyway, the film gives a very good start-to-finish overview on growing hemp, what is desirable in a hemp crop, and how hemp is harvested and processed. The process is very much the same today, even if today’s machinery is more modern. They promote the fact that hemp does well in soil that is well-suited for corn, and weeding is essentially not needed as most weed plants cannot compete with the cannabis plants.
It shows some very impressive cordage (ropes and lines) which is one of the most common uses of hemp, including a 25-inch circumference anchor rope. As with a lot of wartime “motivational films” they talk about the advantage the Japanese has with their supply of Philippine and East-Indian hemp, and suggests that it is a farmer’s patriotic duty to grow a crop of hemp for the war effort.
The film is very factual and stays firmly on the subject of hemp. Documentaries like this often feature staged scenes, in demonstration of the product or subject. The only staged scenes in this one are of a mock naval battle between two enormous tall ships, but those scenes were probably not staged for the film.
You can download or watch Hemp for Victory at the Internet Archive.
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