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Street-level documentary provides insight into fentanyl issues

White Rock Social Justice Film Society presents award-winning feature
Love in the Time of Fentanyl, latest presentation of the White Rock Social Justice Film Society, Dec. 1, is an intimate film looking beyond the stigma of injection drug users. (Contributed photo)

White Rock Social Justice Film Society president Pat Higinbotham doesn’t mince words about the next film to be screened, the documentary Love in the Time of Fentanyl, set for Dec. 1, 6 p.m., at the Turnbull Gallery, in the South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre.

“The fentanyl crisis is not a “fringe” community issue – it is killing people in all sectors of society,” she said.

“This issue affects all of us.”

It’s a learning opportunity, she said, for greater understanding of a problem destined to have a continuing impact on White Rock and the broader Semiahmoo Peninsula.

Presented by the society in partnership with Tides of Change Community Action Team and Semiahmoo Arts, Love in the Time of Fentanyl tells the story of a “group of misfits, artists, and drug users who operate a renegade safe injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Directed, edited and produced by Colin Askey, it’s been described as “an intimate portrait of a community fighting to save lives and keep hope alive in a neighborhood ravaged by the overdose crisis.”

The film has gleaned complimentary press, including a review in WIRED magazine, which observed: “Although Love in the Time of Fentanyl is not meant to evangelize, its warts-and-all depiction could be the key to changing minds.”

READ ALSO: Social justice documentaries return to White Rock following 2-year hiatus

Featured speaker at the screening will be Ronnie Grigg – aka “Narcan Jesus” – one of the subjects of the documentary.

A Naloxone administration demonstration and free Naloxone kits will also be offered at the screening.

Looking beyond the stigma of injection drug users, the film reveals the courage of those facing terrible tragedy in a neighbourhood often referred to as ground zero of the overdose crisis, according to promotional materials supplied by the producers.

“As the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver reaches an all time high, the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) opens its doors—a renegade safe injection site that employs primarily current or former drug users, its staff and volunteers save lives and give hope to a deeply marginalized community as the overdose crisis rages.”

Love in the Time of Fentanyl follows five key individuals.

Sarah, an activist who opened OPS without government approval, strives to raise awareness about the crisis.

Trey, a graffiti artist and former heroin user, spends his days reversing overdoses and memorializing lost community members.

Grigg, a seasoned frontline worker, struggles with burnout from the demanding work and witnessing so much loss.

Norma, a much-loved indigenous elder in the community, cooks meals for the staff when she’s not administering naloxone.

Dana, an active fentanyl user, constantly saves lives at work while struggling with his own drug use.

“With loved ones dying in unprecedented numbers, the staff at OPS does whatever it takes to keep the doors open and find radical new ways out of the devastating but widely ignored crisis ravaging their community,” the media release states.

Love in the Time of Fentanyl had its World Premiere at the 21st DOXA Documentary Film Festival, where it was featured as the Justice Forum Special Presentation and took home the Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Director.

The filmmakers encourage donations to Vancouver’s Overdose Prevention Society.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the program starts promptly at 6:00 p.m.

The South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre is located at 14601 20 Ave.

Admission is by donation ($10 suggested).

About the Author: Alex Browne

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