Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
"Just say no to the war on drugs", quips former IBM salesman and addict, Dean Wilson, a compelling advocate of the view that addiction is first and foremost a health issue, not a crime issue. Whatever your attitude, addiction is definitely a major issue in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, where crack and heroin use is off the chart, the police refer to law enforcement as ‘shovelling water’ and the HIV rate is the highest in North America. Guided by Wilson, Nettie Wild takes her camera onto the streets and shows us exactly what all this means. Along with Wilson we meet Ann Livingston, a non-user, organizer of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and quite possibly the world’s shrewdest Christian Samaritan. She and Wilson make a most unlikely pair, leading the battle to open the continent’s first safe injection site for drug users.
Though their activist style may occasionally embarrass him, they find an ally in the city’s otherwise conservative mayor. We watch as his "compassionate and holistic" drugs policy alienates his own party, infuriates the downtown business community and threatens his career.
In a situation not lacking in polarised conflict or dramatic excitement, Wild locates the true drama within the experiences of several very different battlers struggling to do the right thing – Mayor Philip Owen; police officer Doug Lang; and Wilson and Livingston who make the move from unlikely pair to unlikely couple over the two years of filming. Wild’s respect for the complexity of their responses strengthens her own sane, intensely humane response to a desperate situation. — BG