According the the TIFF Programming person who introduced this film, How to Make Money Selling Drugs was the first film at the festival to go off-sale. She said, “it shows you the power of a catchy title.” My showing was at the very end of the last day of the festival. Another TIFF has come and gone.
How to Make Money… is a documentary that does two things. First, it breaks down the economics of the drug trade at various levels of the business. Each chapter of the film begins with a title (with cutesy video-game music) saying things like, “Level 1: Pawn” all the way up to “Level 7: Head of Cartel”. The documentary interviews a large number of people who were former (and sometimes current) drug dealers. They discuss how to get started, how to find customers, how to avoid getting jacked or arrested, and how much things cost. Secondly, it raises the discussion about the efficacy of the “War on Drugs,” including some of the history of criminalization. This second part wasn’t especially novel — I’ve heard most of these arguments before, although The Wire‘s David Simon had some interesting things to contribute to that conversation.
As a documentary, it’s interesting and entertaining. There’s a sort of wry humour to it, although it doesn’t shy away from some of the brutal aspects of the drug trade. I found “Freeway” Rick Ross and Brian O’Dea were some of the most interesting interview subjects — they both were tremendously upfront about their own histories dealing and running their own networks.
The documentary was up-front about stating that they were mostly talking about marijuana and cocaine, but that their discussion of the economics was pretty much equally applicable to other drugs.