Michel Negroponte's Methadonia
From the Methadonia Forum
A few of the first posts....
Started MMT - 10/13/04
Registered: Apr 2005
Posted October 14th, 2005 07:13 AM IP
I was wondering why you did not feature some current MMT patients who were not abusing
other drugs and were doing well--working, successful, taking good care of
themselves and their familes? I know you featured Millie, but she is no longer on methadone.
Thanks for your time,
Registered: Oct 2005
Posted October 14th, 2005 12:45 PM IP
Zenith, I started this project - over two years ago - when Millie (the group leader) invited me to sit in on her group at NYCATS. At that stage, all I knew was that the film would most likely cover some aspect of addiction and recovery. I spent two months visiting the group without a video camera - several visits per week. I got to know the group members very well. It was by visiting, listening and talking to individuals in the group (before and after meetings) that I learned about some the specific issues that this particular group of addicts in recovery were confronting. One issue was the use of benzos on top of a prescribed methadone dose (clearly a disaster). But because this film, from the beginning, was going to focus on this one group, the people in the group essentially dictated the direction of the film. Furthermore, this type of filmmaking is really about "process". I did not set out to make an anti-methadone film. I had no agenda. My aim was to make an intimate character study and allow the people in the film to speak for themselves. So clearly my approach was very narrow: one specific group of recovering addicts, and how their lives would unfold over a period of time. Also, from the beginning I knew I would remain focused on the group, not include interviews with methadone "experts", and try to describe as honestly and directly their experiences in recovery.
Registered: Oct 2005
Posted October 14th, 2005 01:00 PM IP
I may be the only one in the forum! So let me continue with some other issues. The reaction to "Methadonia" has been overwhelmingly positive. I can't begin to tell you the number of emails and phone calls - almost all of them very supportive. I think the reason for that is most people know nothing about recovery. The film describes vividly how difficult recovery can be for some people. It gives recovery a face, heart and soul. And most people express great empathy for Steve, Bill, Mario and all the other characters in the film. Also, the vast majority of people who see the film believe it sends a great message out to younger people. Teenagers can make choices - fast, uninformed choices - that can impact them for the rest of their lives. Because Methadonia focuses on middle-aged and older addicts, young people see and hear the testimonies of people who would give anything in the world to turn back the clock of time and change choices they made as young people. It's a tough but important message.
These are just a few of the very first posts, the discussion in it's entirety can be found HERE
Michel's first letter to me...that started all of this.
I did go to your website and forum, and read some of the letters. It's because I liked the spirit of your posts (not necessarily the content) that I emailed you the letter that Nick and I wrote. I admire your passion and smarts. Sorry if you feel the letter is "canned". It's just I wanted to get something to you quickly and I've been swamped by emails and phone calls, and it's been a little hard to keep up with all the communications.
I will gladly come to your website and take the heat. But I want to share a few things with you. Just between the two of us for now. First, I had no idea the film would be so controversial. It was only when I saw Dr. Newman's response did I understand that I hit such a raw nerve. Methadone maintenance is clearly a very sensitive subject! But for many reasons, I really dislike Dr. Newman's letter. He clearly knows nothing about filmmaking. He makes all kinds of irrational conclusions about documentaries. I think his letter is over the top. Of course I know he would say many of the same things about me!
I am fully responsible for the content of the film. When I started the film, I had no agenda in terms of methadone. None. Believe it or not, at the end of the process of making the film, I am, if anything, pro-methadone. Clearly some of the people in the film have either negative or ambiguous feelings about methadone treatment, but part of the process of making this kind of film is letting people speak for themselves. If you watch the film again, and listen to my voice over, you'll hear that I take a very middle of the road, careful approach to methadone treatment. I say that methadone clients are often "misinformed about the drug". I say that "... maybe methadone alone should be considered the recovery, not one step to an elusive, complete cure". I also included Mille, the group leader, who is a huge success story. And she talks very clearly how methadone contributed to her recovery.
Most importantly, I made a film about recovery. I did not try to make a complete filmic study, from a medical and historic perspective, about methadone. That's a completely different film, and clearly not the one I made. But I find some of the methadone advocates so narrow in their thinking, that the missed the whole point of the film!
First, I wanted to make an anti-drug film because I have two teenage kids. I really want teenagers to understand that they can make decisions NOW that might affect their entire lives. I know 6 (!) people who have died from herion related reasons. I know the pain and suffereing first hand. I also recognize that given my own drugs use as a teenager I'm lucky as hell I walked away from the whole scene relatively intact.
Secondly, I have gotten scores of letter and phone calls from people who say, in essence, I simply had no idea that recovery could be such an immense battle. The people who contact me say they have a new found empathy for addicts in recovery. There is a human being attached to that struggle, and it's no longer just some worthless junkie. This is how almost everyone - except for methadone advocates - have responded. So why not make the assumption that if people have a new understanding of recovery that they would applaud people who have gone through, or are on, methadone maintenance successfully?
I can not believe that people who see this film will conclude that everyone on methadone is cross addicted to benzos. Perhaps what I'm saying is that the end result of this film is the exact opposite of what you are claiming: people who are doing well on methadone maintenance and are serious about their recovery must be avoiding the numerous pitfalls that CAN accompany recovery. They should be applauded.
The thing that really pissed me off about Dr. Newman's letter is that he dismissed the people in my film as "treatment resistant". A statistic for him, or simply another medical term. For a man who has obviously been associated with recovery, for as long as he has, to say something so dismissive and callous about people struggling with recovery is shocking to me.
I'll stop here. I've rambled on and on. I just want to add that the people in Methadonia are doing great. They've cleaned up their acts because they get recognized by everyone. As Bill says, "Were back in the real world. And were very proud to be where we are."
Thanks for your time.
Wow...sure seems like a very long time ago! We're come a long way baby!!
Here's a few links of interest...including Dr. Newman's letter....Carol
Copyright © 2005 CARSHOL