Sunday, July 29, 2007

May 2006 - Hot Docs Review - Cottonland Review

© May 2006 - Cottonland Film Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Tiny Glace Bay, Nova Scotia gained the reputation of a drug ladled community stricken by the generous prescriptions and availability of morphine-derivative OxyContin. Director Nance Ackerman was first introduced to this epidemic of addiction when she was working as a photographer with the Toronto Star and was assigned to assist with a feature article on the subject. It was during this visit that she first met her soon-to-be documentary collaborator, Eddie Buchanan, and two years later they are in Toronto awaiting the screening of their efforts.Ackerman states, “This is a global issue not confined to Glace Bay, but present in several post-industrial communities.” She argues that the government should be held accountable for letting this happen.

Glace Bay was a typical situation where a once vibrant coal mining community fell into despair as the mines closed and people were forced out of work. Several lawsuits have sprung out within the U.S. and possible action is forthcoming in Glace Bay where one doctor just recently had his practice shut. The film has one doctor stating that there may have been too many prescriptions given out without much thought about the situation.

As typical with coal miners, lower back pain symptoms are not uncommon. As Buchanan states, “If a doctor is giving out, then there’s no business.”Buchanan describes how he became part of the “pill community” that included not only OxyContin, but Percodan, Percocet, and Fiorinal.

“I’ve been on and off drugs since I was 16, now I’m 29 but feel like an old man of 60.” Although he’s cleaned up and is considered a recovering addict, he still maintains a regular regime of methadone, which he considers a tool not a cure.

He started drugs as escapism to black out any problems that he was facing at the time. He admits, “It became not so much about getting high, but about not getting sick by continuing to use.” Luckily he is hear to share his story as there were 24 drug related deaths reported in just over a year and a half in the Glace Bay area.

The positive effects are seen through his smiling face as he announces he’s now working as an electrical apprentice. Ackerman is quick to point out that his resume now includes Filmmaker as well.Glace Bay is also making progress and now has a government funded prescription monitoring program, addiction services assessing individuals by way of harm reduction, and plans to incorporate a methadone clinic within the Glace Bay Hospital. Currently the nearest clinic is 15 minutes away in Sydney, and has a huge waiting list.

Both Ackerman and Buchanan admit that the media coverage played a big role in bringing light to the situation and pushing forward some of these changes.

Ackerman concludes that she would like, “the next step to be for the government to show these communities how to live with pride, identity and worth.”Cottonland is showing at Hot Docs and will be available at the NFB private viewing stations after the Festival. (Canada, 2005, 53 min) Directors: Nance Ackerman, in collaboration with Eddie Buchanan.

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