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Local student invited to Cannes Film Festival

Sometimes the trick to making it in Hollywood is to just believe you Cannes.

Local student Michael Morales has been invited to the prestigious international Cannes Film Festival in May and is now crowdsourcing the funds to make the two-week trip to France to attend.

“I got the email and I didn’t correctly read it, I thought it was just another update,” Morales said about getting news that he’d been invited to what is perhaps the biggest film festival in the world. “Then I re-read it sometime later and was like, ‘holy — you know. This is real. I’m going.’”

The San Francisco State University junior produced, edited and wrote the story for the Spanish-language short film “Guardia de mi Hermano."

Morales, along with other cast and crew members, created the film for Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival. The competition challenges students to create a five-minute short film in only one week.

The film was selected as a Top-16 finalist out of around 100 entries, eventually winning the first-place Jury Award.

“It goes to show that my storytelling, the way that I like to put a film together, people see that and they appreciate it,” he said. “It’s a pretty powerful thing, to be honest. I have the power to send a message to people.”

The film concerns two brothers and how the choices they make can affect each other.

“It ends in a cliffhanger. It leaves the audience to use their imagination to decide what happens,” Morales said.

“One of the great things about the film is that everything is in the details,” said Michael’s father, Mike. “The film presents a real moral dilemma.”

“Guardia de mi Hermano” is currently available to watch on Morales’ GoFundMe page at

The trip will cost at least $3,000, which is a hefty bill for the college student, and he’s asking for donations to help with the costs.

Morales has never been to Europe and is excited for the opportunity to network and pick the brains of veterans of the industry.

“I’m not sure who I’m going to meet out there, but whoever I do meet, for us to cross paths, it was meant to be,” the filmmaker says. “Another thing I hope to get out of is the knowledge of what other directors and producers know and to apply that to my work.”

Of course, rubbing elbows with Hollywood A-listers wouldn't be so bad, either.

"It would be cool to meet Christian Bale or Leonardo DiCaprio," he says.

Morales is currently in SFSU’s broadcast and electronic communications program, hoping to eventually land a job producing prestige genre shows, like HBO’s “Westworld.”

He plans on vlogging from the invite-only film festival to keep everyone back home up-to-date on the experience. 

Should Hanford be worried about federal cannabis policy?

HANFORD — It has been less than a week since California legalized recreational cannabis use, but does the city of Hanford — its journey into the medical cannabis business just beginning — have reason to worry about recent federal rule changes pertaining to the industry?

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lifted a policy set forth by the Obama administration that kept federal authorities from cracking down on cannabis trade in states where the plant is legal. Now, it is up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules regarding legalized cannabis conflict with federal law.

The news throws somewhat of a monkey wrench into the future of the relatively young industry, especially for states that just legalized recreational cannabis use and are trying to navigate the ins-and-outs of regulating something that has black market appeal.

In November, the city issued 21 cannabis permits — a combination of cultivation, manufacturing and distribution permits — to three medical cannabis companies to locate in the industrial park. All of the companies will call Hanford home by the end of the year.

Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said although he will wait intently from word from the Department of Justice on the issue, he is not too worried about what the policy being lifted means for Hanford.

Pyle said although the Obama-era policy was written in 2013, California has allowed medical cannabis businesses since the late 1990s, so the state has already conflicted with federal laws for almost 20 years and the industry still grew.

Hanford itself will not have any dispensaries and has issued permits to medical cannabis businesses only.

Pyle said at this point, he trusts the words of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who said Thursday that he would protect the interests of Californians and oppose any federal efforts to crackdown on state-sanctioned cannabis business.

Furthermore, Pyle said to his knowledge the Department of Justice has not been given any more funds to enforce the federal drug laws concerning cannabis, so he doesn’t know how well it will do against the 29 states that have legalized cannabis.

“California is still issuing permits,” Pyle said. “We just have to see how this all plays out over the next year.”

In fact, the Hanford City Council just conducted a special meeting on Wednesday night to approve a relocation request from medical cannabis company Caliva, which wanted to relocate from an approved location on Houston Avenue to a different location on Energy Street.

Council unanimously approved the relocation request and now Caliva will be able to move its distribution operation into an existing 20,000 square-foot facility in the first quarter and begin distribution and manufacturing in the second quarter, six to eight months earlier than originally planned.

According to a letter from Caliva to Council, allowing the relocation means the construction process will start earlier and jobs will be created earlier.

As long as Caliva submits the proper documents, Pyle said the company will get a building permit in its hands far sooner than expected.

“This will speed them up,” Pyle said. “They will be the first to market.”

Caliva and Genezen, two of the medical cannabis companies that will be locating in Hanford and that have the most experience dealing with legislative issues, did not respond by deadline for this article.