Cinematic Convergence

The 11th Annual Austin Film Festival

Cinematic Convergence
Debra Granik
Debra Granik

The Dirty Side of Clean: 'Down to the Bone' Director Debra Granik On Recovery and Its Risks

"Is this what I got clean for?" It's a question often asked by people conquering substance addictions, rarely one honestly confronted in films about drugs. But in Down to the Bone, Debra Granik's harrowing and humane feature debut, that inescapable and unpleasant question underlies the drama of a blue-collar mom's struggles with the havoc wreaked by both addiction and her recovery process, in a riveting story that elicited gasps from the audience and prizes from the jury (for Granik's direction and Vera Farmiga's lead performance) at Sundance 2004.

"A common depiction of chemical dependence is one where a character hits bottom and then sets on a direct path to redemption," notes the director. "But for people suddenly confronted with sobriety, there can be a kind of razor-sharp vision of the world around them that is very harsh, and the difficulty of making that transition can be really interesting. And very messy."

Messy, hard-edged, and unflinching the reality of the film may be, but it is also immensely generous, and not without its own sort of redemption. There's hope in its notion that, if our victories are provisional, then so are our failures. "There's a tendency to say that if a character does this or that, the audience will despise her," says Granik. "But you have to take that risk. You have to. People deserve a second chance."

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 9:15pm at the Arbor

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