CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A film about prescription pill abuse in a southern West Virginia community is set for its first free local screening next week.
The West Virginia International Film Festival is sponsoring a free showing of "Oxyana," the project of director Sean Dunne that's gained national acclaim and local ire.
The showing is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 23 at Park Place Cinemas in Charleston, with a panel discussion about substance abuse in West Virginia immediately following, according to a news release from the film festival.
Panelists include state Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin and Kim Miller, director of development for addiction treatment provider Prestera Center.
In "Oxyana," residents of Oceana and other communities in Wyoming County talk about how abuse of OxyContin and other powerful prescription pain medication have affected their lives. The film is a series of interviews, focusing mainly on people who are currently using the pills or who have battled with addiction in the past.
Nationally, the film has received accolades - Dunne won the best new filmmaker award from the Tribeca Film Festival - for its "raw honesty" in discussing a problem facing many communities. Locally, many residents admit there is a substance abuse problem but believe Dunne exploited the town and exaggerated its problems.
In recently releasing the film online, Dunne pointed out few in the state have actually seen "Oxyana." That's one reason the film festival wanted to bring "Oxyana" to Charleston, said Emmett Pepper, a representative of the festival.
"We are very excited to foster a discussion about this very important issue to our state," Pepper said in an email.
"While the problem is ongoing, we hope that learning about some of the success stories in the state will inspire additional successes in tackling the prescription drug problem here."
Many of the subjects offer conclusions with little evidence to support the claims.
One man says 70 to 80 percent of the county has Hepatitis C because of intravenous drug use. Another says he's 23 years old and half of his graduating class is dead, while a woman says 75 percent of people her age are homeless or live with their parents.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Dunne said the film is supposed to be immersive and not informational. It's supposed to show how those affected by prescription pill abuse view their world.
Pepper said he and others at the festival saw the film before they decided to have a public showing. They agreed Dunne allows the film's subjects to tell their own story. Pepper said he thinks the people in the film "seem to be presenting the things they say as subjective, not objective, facts."