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American Meth: Following Virgil
Documentary filmmakers are Virgils escorting their viewers on countless journeys to Hell’s many worlds. Unlike Dante’s “Inferno,” however, these worlds exist in our world rather than in art or literature—religious or otherwise. The closest we can get to escape and find redemption is simply to see and receive the journeys’ world, and, perhaps, to address the ills of that world.
Documentary filmmaker Justin Hunt takes us to the world of methamphetamine addiction in his first feature, “
." With its allusion to ‘mess’, the perfectly titled film features interviews of former and current users as well as professionals dedicated to ending the epidemic of addiction which has blighted the bucolic, rural regions of the United States.
Shot in the American west, and narrated by Val Kilmer, the centerpiece of Hunt’s film is hanging out with Holly and James, a pair of meth addicts living in a double-wide with their four young children. Hunt spent several days with this family, capturing the horror of this addiction in thoroughly visceral terms. Inside and outside the trailer the two parents struggle with themselves individually and with each other. Living life on the edge of collapse, returning frequently to the topic of their addiction, and providing an environment of pathos for their children.
I return to my thoughts about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: We cannot observe a system without influencing it. Perhaps it was the camera that prompted Holly and James to consider and talk about their addiction. Perhaps the camera somehow symbolizes “God.” God-is-watching-us, an idea that can cattle-prod conscience. And maybe it is that conscience combined with their inevitably deteriorating circumstances that motivated a move home, to a new start. Like Holly and James, most of the addicts interviewed in this film find their ways away from meth and/or into treatment program, and more promising lives.
But, of course, the addiction’s toll on individuals and society is astronomical. The professionals interviewed drive home the tenacity of this particular addiction. Justin Hunt has made his contribution, though, made himself part of the solution. His film has been recognized and well-lauded.
“American Meth” contains resource references, and the film’s website contains many more resources.
D. Schwartz June 19, 2011