Pubdate: Fri, 08 Dec 2006
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2006 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Tim Arsenault
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Frustration Over Attitudes About Substance Abuse Led To Documentary

IMAGINE A CANADA where marijuana is legal and a  prescription gets 
you a hit of heroin or cocaine.

That's the proposal of Senator Larry Campbell, the  former cop and 
mayor of Vancouver whose life inspired  the Da Vinci's Inquest TV series.

Such controversial and contrarian views are at the  heart of the 
provocative Damage Done: The Drug War  Odyssey, airing Saturday at 7 
p.m. on Global as part of  the Global Currents series of documentaries.

Halifax director Connie Littlefield said she has an  ongoing interest 
in drug policy. Putting together a  previous project got her thinking 
about the topic in a  fresh way

"I've been working in film and television for 20 years  but I guess 
what crystallized it for me was when I made  Hofmann's Potion, a film 
I made at the (National) Film  Board a couple of years ago. I pitch 
20 proposals for  every film I actually make - it was just one that 
got funded - but making that film really set me off in 
some  interesting directions," Littlefield said during an  interview.

"It's the hypocrisy of it that really appals me. I just  can't quite 
figure out how we can call ourselves an  enlightened society and 
still turn a blind eye to  something that seems to be doing so much 
damage yet it  would be so simply cured if only we would come to 
terms  with our own feelings about substances."

Damage Done depicts many people who have wrestled with  their stance 
on forbidden substances, most notably  members of Law Enforcement 
Against Prohibition. The  group claims about 5,000 members and anyone 
can join,  but LEAP was founded by police veterans who gradually 
concluded that the traditional war on drugs was  illogical.

Among them is former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper,  who declares 
that the basis for most contemporary  police corruption is the drug trade.

Cele Castillo worked on the front lines with the United  States Drug 
Enforcement Administration. Or he did until  he witnessed a pick-up 
soccer match between drug agents  and the local cartel.

Howard Wooldridge, who put in 18 years in law  enforcement, rides a 
one-eyed horse across the U.S. to  draw attention to the issue.

"They have the strength of their own convictions. At  one point in 
time they were just ordinary cops. They  were just enforcing the law 
the way it was written.  Something happened to change their minds. I 
think that  in the process of that epiphany, if you will, they 
had  to become stronger. It made them heroes, in my  opinion," said 

"And that makes them very filmic, so I kind of  exploited that. The 
guy's riding his horse across the  country to protest the drug war. 
What's more filmic  than that. And the horse only has one eye. I 
mean, come  on."

It's a good thing Littlefield did a lot of advance work  on the film 
because when the project got the green  light there was not a lot of 
time to improvise.

"We developed the film on very little money for a  couple of years so 
we had a lot of time to talk about  it and become familiar with the 
subject area and the  characters. But when the money finally came 
through it  was conditional upon being delivered in October for 
broadcast this weekend."

Tenacity also paid off in securing an interview with  former New York 
City cop Frank Serpico. His one-man  crusade against dirty cops was 
made into a classic '70s  movie starring Al Pacino.

"He's not a member of LEAP officially, although he  totally supports 
them. He's just not a joiner, really,  as you might think," said 
Littlefield. "I'm talking to  him about potentially making another 
documentary about  the roots of police corruption."

The director is anxious to see what reaction her film  will generate, 
particularly through the wide  availability of the Global broadcast.

"Global is airing a 45-minute version this weekend.  There's also a 
54-minute version which includes a  couple of other American 
characters and that is what we  refer to as the NFB version. It's 
hopefully going to be  distributed all over the world and through the 
NFB's  resources in North America and hopefully you'll even be  able 
to buy your own copy one day."

Damage Done was produced by Ann Bernier for Halifax's  imX 
Communications and Kent Martin for the National  Film Board's Atlantic Studio.

Littlefield isn't sure what her next project is going  to be but has 
a need to get to work.

"I'm waiting to see if I can get some development money  and get 
going on something. I'd like to do something  again really soon 
because it's kind of addictive, the  filmmaking process."
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