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A NEW DOCUMENTARY TAKES A HARD LOOK AT ADDICTION 

There have been many great movies, books, cable series and documentaries about addiction that can be both horrifying and illuminating to the world. Many everyday people who don’t understand addiction can learn a lot from them, and now there’s a hard-hitting new short documentary, The Pull, that deals with a man, John Bixby, who isn’t yet thirty, but who has been struggling for addiction for over ten years. 

 Bixby is hooked on opioids and has done time in jail. This documentary, which was created for the New York Times, shows Bixby incarcerated, and how he’s struggled to try and clean up his life. At one point in the documentary, he admits, “I know I’m not gonna stop unless I want to. The only time I’ve kicked is…I’ve done it on the streets on my own, it’s never lasted, jail is the only way I’ve stopped for a while.”  

 The Pull was directed by Paul Szynol, and as he writes in the New York Times, “Films that confront pain are films that confront a taboo; they make us uncomfortable. On the one hand, we respond to the content itself, to the visibility of something that we strive to eradicate or at least avoid.” 

 Szynol acknowledges that a documentary like this can lead to charges of exploitation, but as he explains, “Addicts in the United States are largely treated as criminals, their identities reduced to legal charges and chemical doses. Addiction is seen as self-inflicted failure; the etiology is passed over in silence. Because the victims are the perpetrators, the supply of empathy is limited.” 

 In documenting Bixby’s addiction, Szynol says “the point is to restore three-dimensionality and incarnate the individual. Those ugly moments – moments of heartache, despondency, wretchedness – are not only symbolic of addiction in general but also defining parts of John’s story.” In the film “John recaptures the narrative about his own suffering, and allows us to respond in the way that systemic criminalization of addiction doesn’t: with empathy and understanding.”