New Hampshire Film Festival Tackles Opioid Addiction

This year’s New Hampshire Film Festival showed a double feature about the state’s opioid epidemic, sparking a dialogue between filmmakers and the community about a problem they say warrants more attention.

The film festival, which ran from October 12-15 in the town of Portsmouth, held a Q&A session after the screening with the filmmakers.

Andy Wooff’s Birthday follows a British heroin user on his 51st birthday as he goes about his day searching for his daily fix. The 7-minute short film is written, directed and produced by British filmmaker William Bentley.

“This is an area where it means most because the epidemic is here,” said Bentley, for whom the epidemic hits close to home; he spent summers in the Granite State in his youth. “The tri-state area, the New England area are really suffering from it. It means a lot to have people come up to you and talk to you about the film afterwards.”

Filmmaker Michael Venn, dubbed NH Filmmaker of the Year, said he was also pleased that his film The Heroin Effect could spark a conversation within the community, whether the reviews are good or bad. “The more we talk about it, the closer we get to finding solutions and pathways to recovery for those affected,” Venn said in an interview.

The Heroin Effect follows the lives of a group of people in recovery, and tries to “bring hope to those who are currently struggling” by telling their stories from the “perspective of recovery.”

In 2016, New Hampshire saw nearly 500 drug overdose deaths. This month, the New York Times reported that the state’s chief medical examiner Dr. Thomas A. Andrew resigned from his post to enroll in seminary after 20 years on the job.

Dr. Andrew said that dealing with rising drug deaths exhausted him not just physically, but emotionally. “I’m not an alarmist by nature, but this is not overhyped,” he said. “It has completely overwhelmed us.”