"By the time someone has gone from heroin to speedballs, methadone, and prescription drugs, the magic is over. The fantasy now is what other people might call a routine day."
Reviewed by Sofia Resnick, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006
HBO Documentary Films, $24.95"By the time someone has gone from heroin to speedballs, methadone, and prescription drugs, the magic is over. The fantasy now is what other people might call a routine day."
Even for someone who has never snorted, injected, smoked, puffed, or popped, one look through director Michel Negroponte's camera as it scans a group of middle-aged recovering drug addicts at the New York Center for Addiction Treatment Services, and it's easy to imagine the fantasy as they feel it. For the next 18 months, this documentary follows the members of this group as they undergo methadone treatment, chasing after dreams of warm houses to come home to, children to look after, and a mental life free of visions, voices, and fog.
Unlike the wag-a-finger-at-you dramas that portray the obvious regarding drug addiction (e.g., Requiem for a Dream, Spun), Methadonia instead spends its time outlining the inherent flaws of legal methadone treatments for opiate addiction.
Negroponte profiles eight addicts, of various stages of recovery and relapse, and studies their experiences living in "methadonia," an in-between stage where relapse threatens constantly and innovative addicts have learned how to simulate an authentic heroin high by mixing methadone with benzodiazepines ("benzos"), a class of drugs given to recovering addicts to treat other symptoms of addiction such as anxiety, insomnia, and voices. When popped in large doses with methadone, these benzos, which include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, produce a high that removes the "boring" nature of methadone from treatment and helps addicts remain addicts. Negroponte explores his subject objectively, providing intimate close-ups with the patients and their inconclusive stories, all the while administering a fade-in/fade-out shooting technique comparable to the wayward nature of methadonia.
A year after the film's original release, Methadonia's DVD offers worthwhile special features, including two shorts: one on the general subject of addiction and methadone and the other a sequence of follow-ups on the eight profiled characters, as well as myriad sources and Web links for addiction and treatment services.
The Education of Shelby Knox: Sex Lies & Education (InCite Pictures, $26.95): An Audience Award winner at South by Southwest in 2005 and receiving much acclaim elsewhere, this documentary details the story of the 15-year-old who campaigns for sex education in Lubbock high schools, stirring trouble with her conservative Baptist neighborhood along the way.
Also Out Now
I'll Sing for You (Les Films du Paradoxe, $29.95): Beautifully shot documentary on Boubacar Traoré, the legendary Malian political musician who has long been off the radar. His music and message are remembered through an old recording found by a music producer.