Jean-Claude LaMarre’s 2001 Comedy Higher Ed Receives It’s Long Overdue Release!

Filmmaker Jean-Claude LaMarre has written, directed, produced and starred in of dozens of films over the past two decades. And they’ve come in a  variety of different genres, including dramas (Basketball Girlfriend, 2014) westerns (Gang of Roses, 2003), thrillers (Trapped: Haitian Nights, 2010), family fare (The Pastor and Mrs. Jones, 2013) and religious films (Color of the Cross, 2006).

Pras and Leila Arcieri in Higher Ed.

But it’s multi-hyphenate Lamarre’s very first film, 2001’s Higher Ed, a weed-friendly smoker comedy a la such stoner gigglers of the day as How High (2001) or the Friday films, that takes center stage this week because on September 7, it was released for the very first time, more than 20 years after it was completed.

“Back in 2001, we sold the film to a new company that had a theatrical output deal with Sony, but after their first film was released, the company tanked,” Lamarre explained to me in a recent interview concerning Higher Ed’s two-decade gestation. “Our film was still in the telecine lab getting prepared when it happened. But since the company folded and went bankrupt, our film sat their for twelve years.”

Eventually, the rights reverted back to Lamarre and the film was ultimately picked up for the DVD and digital market by Lightyear Entertainment.

Starring Pras (of The Fugees), Aries Spears, Hill Harper and Leila Arcieri, Higher Ed revolves around a 19-year-old New Yorker, Ed Green, who skips town to avoid a psychotic Mexican weed dealer and subsequently enrolls at a Southern college, where he masquerades as a student on a track scholarship. It doesn’t take too long before track star Ed encounters such fresh hurdles as a stoner roommate, the encroaching NYC gang members who’ve tracked him down, an on-campus string operation to quash drug usage and, on a more positive note, the allure of a friendly campus beauty.

“Directing a comedy is so much fun because I can just laugh every day for the duration of the production,’ LaMarre said of making the film. “Hill Harper created the funniest character in Craig—he’s such a talent. Pras was a riot, too, and Leila played her part well also.”

Two decades on, Lamarre still has some vivid memories of the comedy production, one of them a not-so-funny one.

“I remember the first day of filming, one of the extras severely [injured] his leg on a steel bench during a scene,” he recalled of the production, which was shot in Santa Clarita, CA. “And I thought to myself, ‘First day and my movie is done for.’”

“But he was rushed to the emergency room and it didn’t torpedo the film,” he added.

Higher Ed is currently available on DVD and Digital from Lightyear Entertainment.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.