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Film, 'Here Today' moves audience

11/29/02 12:00AM By Lois Eby
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(Host) Recently commentator Lois Eby saw the film "Here Today: Heroin in Vermont" and she was moved by this documentary about the effects of heroin on addicts and their families.

"Here Today" uses a simple format: people who live in the Saint Johnsbury area and have personally struggled with their own addiction or that of a family member speak directly to the camera about their experience. There is nothing flashy or hyped about this film. It's not your average network TV news or docudrama. The film's straightforward approach may seem surprising at first but very quickly the stories its subjects have to tell become gripping precisely because they come from real people dealing with all the complexity of real situations.

"Here Today" has been shown this fall in numerous Vermont towns and cities from Bennington to Newport. In Barre, 500 people filled the Barre Opera House to see the film. In Hardwick, the large crowd responded so enthusiastically to the film that the Northeast Kingdom Arts Council booked it at the Town House for a second showing.

In the film, we hear from parents whose children have become addicts. We also meet several of the children, one in jail, another losing her children because of her addiction, a third struggling to rebuild her life. Parents and children talk about how the addiction happened and how it has affected their lives. We also meet adult addicts who have struggled for years to become free of their addiction. All kinds of people of different ages, incomes and races speak to the audience. Hearing about the intense struggle each person has had with addiction, one realizes just how much courage and sheer stamina are required of both addicts and family members to survive. One also begins to realize just how little help we as a society are giving to those struggling with this disease.

At the end of "Here Today" many of the people in the film file up to the front of the theater. I didn t realize how much affection, admiration and compassion I had developed for these individuals until I saw them standing before the audience. The film raises many questions about heroin addiction, the drug war and the criminal justice system, and much needed but far too few treatment programs. The evening ends with a discussion of some of these questions.

The Saint Johnsbury Drug Abuse Resistance Team and Community Justice Center produced the film. Filmmaker Bess O Brien directed it. With a cast of real people, instead of actors, they have brought thoughtful compassion to a dialogue that has no easy answers. The film engages us in a matter which in truth already involves us and our communities far more than many of us realize.

This is Lois Eby.

Lois Eby is a painter who comments on the arts, women's issues and civil rights.
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