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FIX: The Story of an Addicted City

Year: 2002
Language: English
Format: Digital Betacam (NTSC) Colour
Runtime: 92 min
Director: Nettie Wild
Producer: Nettie Wild, Betsy Carson
Executive Producer: Gary Marcuse
Cinematographer: Kirk Tougas
Editor: Reginald Harkema
Sound: Dennis Burke
Music: Dennis Burke, Salvador Ferreras
Production Company: Canada Wild Productions Ltd.

This documentary on drug addiction in Vancouver features possibly the most outspoken drug addict in the country – former IBM salesman Dean Wilson, president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and a prominent advocate of safe-injection sites. Wilson and his girlfriend Ann Livingston – the charismatic, devoutly Christian organizer of VANDU who approaches her work with a missionary zeal – have found an unusual ally in Philip Owen, the conservative mayor of Vancouver who has alarmed members of his own party by championing the philosophies of “harm reduction” and proposing safe-injection sites for the city’s drug-addled Downtown Eastside.

The situation in the Downtown Eastside is a tragedy of nightmarish proportions: addicts commit felonies and openly shoot up in the streets, and heroin is seventy-five per cent cheaper than it is anywhere else in the country. Livingston and her group drive around like guerrilla freedom fighters, delivering a coffin to the city council, stopping only briefly to allow Wilson to get his methadone fix. Community business leaders and property owners, believing a safe-injection site will only encourage more drug use, want tougher laws. Advocates from both sides take to the streets. The overworked police, stuck in the middle, only have the power to maintain order and liken the situation to shovelling water: “It tends to come back.”

Candidly shot over two years, FIX: The Story of an Addicted City grows more personal as it progresses. (Owen himself donated the $140,000 raised at his farewell bash to pay for the film’s 35mm blow-up and cross-Canada tour, holding Q&A sessions with Wild after every screening.) Showing both sides of a polarized community, director Nettie Wild once again brings her trademark conviction to a politically charged, highly controversial subject. FIX: The Story of an Addicted City premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival®, drew rave reviews when it was distributed internationally and went on to win Wild her second Genie Award for Best Documentary.

By: Andrew McIntosh, Stacey Donen