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“Waldo on Weed” Is an Uplifting Doc About Young Cancer Patients and Cannabis
culture  |  Mar 17, 2020

“Waldo on Weed” Is an Uplifting Doc About Young Cancer Patients and Cannabis

A new documentary looks at all sides of medical cannabis treatment from the perspective of a boy with a rare form of cancer — and the "dadvocate" who risked it all to save him.

A new documentary looks at all sides of medical cannabis treatment from the perspective of a boy with a rare form of cancer — and the "dadvocate" who risked it all to save him.

All photos courtesy of Tommy Avallone

In 2018, while completing work on his documentary The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man, filmmaker Tommy Avallone contacted Brian Dwyer, who was at the time co-owner of Pizza Brain, a Philadelphia-based parlor that also housed his Guinness World Records-worthy collection of pizza memorabilia. Avallone thought that they could collaborate on a film project about Brian’s pizza obsession — and then he heard about his son, Waldo.

Born Waldo James Mysterious Dwyer in 2014, Waldo was a big — make that BIG (13 lb, 8.5 oz) — happy baby, and to Brian and his wife, Danielle, he was everything that one could hope for and dream about in a child. But then the Dwyers saw a dull spot in one of Waldo's eyes, and a shadow was cast over the dream. Waldo was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Doctors suggested that to combat the chance of blindness — or worse — Waldo should undergo chemotherapy.

And then came the part that hooked Tommy, a devotee of what he calls "stories that are very human." The chemotherapy only seemed to make Waldo sicker, and the Dwyers were desperate. Enter his friends Mike and Larry — Waldo's self-described "uncles" — who mentioned the then-recent case of a three-year-old with leukemia who appeared to reverse a terminal diagnosis with the help of medical cannabis. Might this also give Waldo a lifeline?

And so began the Dwyers' four-year, cross-country journey to save their son with cannabis oil, a quest documented in part on Brian's Flip Video camera, and which forms the core of Avallone's documentary, Waldo on Weed. The film, which debuts on iTunes and other streaming platforms, as well as DVD and Blu-ray, on March 17, follows the Dwyers as they not only educate themselves about CBD oil — with the help of grower/manufacturer Matt Rize and cannabis advocate Dr. Dina — but also learn to administer it to their son and contend with family members who are firmly opposed to their choice. Oh, and this being 2014, Brian and his friends also risk jail time to smuggle the oil from California to Philadelphia.

author_paul_gaita

Paul Gaita has written for Variety, the Los Angeles Times, Costco Connection, The Fix, The Los Angeles Beat, and many other publications and websites. Visit his website http://bypaulgaita.com/

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