HEROIN(E): “We will not be defined by this problem.”

HEROIN(E) – 2017 – 39 minutes – ★★★1/2

Directed by Elaine McMillion

Oscar nomination:  Best Documentary Short Subject

Where to watch:  Streaming on Netflix

Documentary short features can be one of the most powerful forms of cinema.  Imagine wanting to tell a real story, that is original and captivating.  Now imagine doing so in 40 minutes or less.   All of the dross must be snipped away, until you are left with something that shines.  I suppose it’s a similar narrative challenge to short story writing.

This short film centers on the town of Huntington, West Virginia, known as the overdose capital of America.  The city averages over ten overdoses a day.

The movie views the epidemic through the eyes of three women who are giving everything they have to make a difference.  These women are Jan Rader (the first woman fire chief in West Virginia history),  Judge Patricia Keller (who oversees “drug court”) and Necia Freeman (who runs a ministry for women on the street).

Necia drives around at night, handing out food and hygiene supplies, helping women to get into a shelter, or a treatment program.  Judge Keller treats everyone in her court equally.  She can be tender, she can be tough.  But the addicts have to be willing to work towards change.  And Chief Rader responds to calls, overdose after overdose, day after day.

This movie is not intended in any way as an in-depth look at the drug crisis.  It doesn’t attempt to explain it, or offer widespread solutions.  This is a much more simple, human story,  a look at three women who are living with the stuggle every single day, and are trying to save lives, one person at a time.

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