September, 1995

Morris Potashner for pot!
Glaucoma sufferer discovers cure.
It's a miracle!

Leslie Stackel

Oy vey, what a trip! And for a Jewish grandpa, no less.

But what else could Morris Potashner, the 75-year-old protagonist of the film PRESSURE DROP, do? When diagnosed with glaucoma, he's offered two treatment choices: an operation or&emdash;you guessed it marijuana.

"You mean&emdash;dope?!" Morris' wife, Ida, nearly shrieks at the doctor prescribing this treatment in the film's opening scene. The patient just smiles and shrugs. Thus begins Morris' excellent, sinse-ational, if goofy, adventure.

Created and produced by New York University film-school grads Marc Ostrick and Ezra Soiferman (their company is appropriately called Mensch Films), this 18-minute over-the-top short features Morris (Felix Fibich) as a kind of Yiddish Alex-in-Hippieland, dishing up an Old World accent that would do Molly Picon proud. As for authentic Lower East Side-ese mannerisms, Mina Bern (Ida), a veteran actress who recently appeared in It Could Happen to You and Little Odessa, does equally well.

No wonder the film has won awards at the New Orleans and Chicago film festivals and post-production funding from Warner Bros. Picture, for instance, Morris timorously entering the glaucoma "self-help clinic" (resembling a circa-'60s hallucinogenic drug den for senior citizens), then turning to the host and asking, in his best bagels-and-lox accent, "So, vere's da marijuana?" That's enough of a giggle. Add a few more stoned elders to the brew (a multi-ethnic mix spiced perhaps too heavily with PC), and the film's good for a few more belly laughs.

Whatever prompted two young film makers to concoct such an unlikely scenario about seniors? And, moreover, to name their venture company Mensch Films? Well, the duo for years were resident New Yorkers, and in New York, Yiddishisms (Oy gevalt, mazel tov, kvetch) are like knishes-everyone loves them.

As for the first question, Soiferman says he and Ostrick were sitting around one night wondering what they might be like in older age, and "we figured we'd probably wind up puffing on hookahs and listening to old Bob Marley albums." It also happens that Soiferman's own zeyde (grandfather) suffers from glaucoma, a fact that only partially formed a premise for the film, since Grandpa Soiferman never actually opted for the pot cure. But Ezra notes that he's aware of cannabis buyers' clubs now in operation for folks needing medical marijuana.

Enough already with the chatter. So, nu, what happens at the end of the movie? Well, hamming it up to the hilt, Morris gets stoned silly, loving every minute of it. Ida, fed up with her husbands new habit, offers him an ultimatum: Either he gets the operation or she's leaving him. Morris, who by now is donning tie-dyes and beads, reluctantly agrees. Wearing postoperative black shades, Morris (with faithful Ida beside him) piles into an old clanky convertible, his clinic pals in tow, headed for-where else Jamaica!...