THE trailer begins with footage of what looks like boring, prosperous guys in suits.
"Here's another crackhead friend of mine," the narrator intones. "He's the chief of staff to the senate president of Rhode Island."
The Anonymous People is an uncompleted documentary about drug and alcohol addiction, but director Greg Williams put a decidedly different slant on the film.
"It's a story about addiction that you have never heard before," he says in an online preview. "There's no fried eggs in a pan, pictures of the brain, needles hanging out of people's arms. It's a story about the other side of addiction: the 20 million people living in long-term recovery."
The eight-minute trailer for the film is scheduled to screen at the opening gala of Reel Recovery Oct. 19 at District 319 on Main Street in Vancouver.
Now in its second year, Reel Recovery is a two-day film festival featuring stories of drug addiction and recovery.
Presented by Writers in Treatment and the Orchard Recovery Centre, the festival is the unlikely result of a newly hired communications manager reading old emails.
"There wasn't anybody in the role for about eight or 10 months so I was going through all these emails just scanning everything to make sure that nothing important was missed," recalls AnnMarie McCullough, director of community relations for Orchard. "One of the things that was in there was an offer to sponsor a film festival about addiction and recovery."
Located in West Vancouver, Orchard Recovery offers treatment for drug addiction and mental health issues, but McCullough says she saw the festival as a way to foster conversation about treatment while helping to reduce the shame faced by many recovering addicts.
"One of the Orchard's primary goals, besides helping people in treatment to recover, is to help break that stigma and to bring awareness to the fact that people do recover. We're not always trying to talk about the problem of addiction but rather the solution of recovery," McCullough says.
This year's festival includes Bill W. a biopic about William G. Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Unguarded, an ESPN film about a basketball player's struggle with drug addiction and Beauty Mark, which deals with the eating disorders and obsessive exercising faced by a psychotherapist and triathlete.
Despite the array of movies, McCullough says the trailer for The Anonymous People and subsequent question and answer period with the director is the festival's most highly anticipated event.
"This is how we got inspired to create Recovery Day was by watching this gentleman's trailer," she says. "The Anonymous People is about putting a voice to the people who have been in recovery for a long time, so that by sharing their stories of hope, more people feel that this is something they can talk about."
Being able to talk about recovery is something that affects McCullough directly.
"I have a lot of friends in recovery who don't share openly about their recovery to their co-workers and colleagues because they're still afraid of being judged," she says. "Not that I run around shouting it from rooftops, but I will share with people what my story is because I think it's important for people who might not otherwise get an idea of what an alcoholic can look like."
McCullough says she has encountered several people who were skeptical about her struggle.
"You have to overcome sort of that, 'if you didn't end up under a bridge drinking out of a paper bag' idea. . . . That's just the outside, what we all share in common is feelings," McCullough says.
Each addict's struggle with substance abuse is unique, according to McCullough.
"I still had a job and a house and a car and a husband and all these things that all looked really good on the outside," she says. "Rock bottom looks different for everybody."
McCullough handpicked the films for this year's festival, in part to avoid movies that emphasized the bleakest points of addiction, as well as scenes of drug abuse that might serve as triggers for recovering addicts.
"I wasn't interested in movies that focused 90 per cent of the movie on the addiction and then 10 per cent on where there's recovery," she says. "We really chose movies that are all focused on hope and recovery. None of them are triggering, none of them really get too far into the addiction piece, they're all really about the recovery piece and how you can bounce back and have an amazing life."
For more information go to orchardrecovery.com/filmfest.