FIX: The Story of an Addicted City

Movie Information

Genre: Documentary
Director: Nettie Wild
Starring: Ann Livingston, Philip Owen, Dean Wilson
Rated: NR

This is a pretty straightforward, unflinching documentary about the heroin problem in Vancouver, British Columbia, focusing on activist Ann Livingston and her relationship (both personal and professional) with addict/activist Dean Wilson, as well as then-Mayor Philip Owen’s attempts to combat the problem by establishing “safe” zones for addicts where shooting up is less dangerous.

Those attempts are at the core of the film, and not surprisingly, are central to its controversy — not in the least because no one wants a safe-injection center in their neighborhood. It’s strong stuff that doesn’t shy away from depicting the realities of drug addiction and usage and doesn’t curb its tongue. The real-life dialogue is just that, and it’s as coarse and raw as you’d expect, given the setting and the subject matter.

The idea of presenting the addicts as people rather than an abstract problem imbues the film with a power that’s not always present in this kind of documentary. But the thing that really separates FIX from the crowd is the strange relationship between Livingston and Wilson, and, by extension, between Wilson and Livingston’s family.

As the movie progresses and the details of the relationship become clearer, you realize that Wilson’s drug addiction is not the only addiction at work here and that there’s a co-dependency between Livingston and Wilson that’s potentially almost as damaging as the heroin. This affords the film — whether by design or luck — an unusual emotional resonance that will linger in the mind long after the broader social issues have receded into the background.

But what the film makes most clear is the fact that ignoring the problem of drug addiction — allowing it to exist, so long as it’s in areas that “don’t matter” — is both hypocritical and unworkable.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

[FIX will be shown at 9 p.m., Friday, July 29, and 9 p.m., Sunday, July 31, at the Asheville Community Resource Center, 16 Carolina Lane, downtown.]

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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