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Still from Love in the Time of Fentanyl

ReFrame Review: Love in the Time of Fentanyl

Written by
Alyssa Triano
and
and
January 24, 2023
ReFrame Review: Love in the Time of Fentanyl
Still from Love in the Time of Fentanyl

Set in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the heart-rending documentary Love in the Time of Fentanyl not only emphasizes the magnitude of the overdose crisis in Canada, but also highlights the challenges of those who fight this battle head-on. The film shares an intimate lens with the viewer while following the staff of the first Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) establishment, an illegal safe injection site operating without government approval. What has now become a country-wide authorization for fighting against the ongoing overdose crisis once started with a small community in Vancouver’s Eastside who were tired of losing friends and family to preventable death. 

The film shares a unique connection with the increasing overdose crisis as it centers around the staff of OPS, all of whom are current or former drug users. The film opens with Dana, an active fentanyl user and one of the managers at OPS, administering emergency medication (Naloxone/Narcan) to an individual experiencing an overdose and saving their life. The first scene immediately engrosses the viewer in the extreme measures taken by these staff members in order to fight this crisis attacking their community members. 

Love in the Time of Fentanyl follows Sarah, the founder of the first OPS location and emphasizes her and her staff members' close-knit community and the extensive loss they’ve endured due to this cataclysm. Alongside her is Trey, another OPS employee and graffiti artist who memorializes the losses in the area by creating murals in their honour, heavily depicting the gravity of these deaths. Together, the staff at OPS not only raise awareness for the severity of this issue leading to the first steps taken in addressing this crisis, but also continue to save the lives of their friends and family daily. 

The staff members at OPS are what make both their cause and this film so captivating and motivational as each individual has experienced the obstacles of drug addiction from a worker’s and a user's perspective. The documentary portrays the perspective of Ronnie, a forefront worker in preventing overdoses who is experiencing harsh burnout after ten years on the job. Exposed to so many deaths of his community members, friends, and family, like all individuals affected by this crisis on a global scale, Ronnie finds himself consumed by the desolation that comes with the territory. 

The OPS organization and the film itself provide an immense amount of hope for an extremely marginalized community, spreading the severity of these deaths across the country. Creating a global network of safe injection sites across Canada and the world today, the first OPS location and its staff members ignited a chain of activists who believe in and fight for the same cause today. Similar to the individuals depicted in this film, director and producer, Colin Askey framed this project in a light that draws significant attention to the pain and seriousness of the ongoing overdose crisis in Canada. Askey composed this film in a manner that allows the viewer to experience firsthand the great loss and extreme measures the individuals in these communities face daily in order to keep themselves and their loved ones alive. This film as well as the individuals it portrays inspires the desperate need for action against the millions of preventable deaths from the overdose crisis across our country and the world.

The 2023 ReFrame Festival runs from January 26th-February 3rd. A list of films, tickets to events and screenings, and more information can be found on the Festival Website.

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Arthur News School of Fish
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