If you were to drive through Brown County in Indiana, you'd likely find yourself in awe of what is almost universally regarded as one of the most beautiful areas of Indiana. With The Addict's Wake, director Michael Husain reminds us with intelligence and grace that amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of Brown County exists the very real lives of Hoosiers increasingly impacted by meth, opioid, and heroin addiction.
Winner of the Indiana Spotlight Award at the 30th Anniversary Heartland International Film Festival in Indianapolis where the film had its world premiere, The Addict's Wake is a stark yet hopeful feature documentary about one small, tight-knit community and its determination to confront issues impacting the nation. With honesty and a remarkable sense of vulnerability, they do so with piercing insight and a critical perspective that demands a response.
The Emmy Award-winning Husain approaches The Addict's Wake with a rare patience for this subject matter. It's as if he demands that we get to know these people in an effort to understand their stories and fully embrace their humanity. As a fellow Hoosier myself, I was at times overwhelmed by the thought that these people brought to life in The Addict's Wake are living all around me. They are, without question, part of my world.
Why have I not seen them?
Husain steadfastly refuses to not humanize these people because they are, in fact, human beings. Far too often, we allow the labels that we assign, such as "addict," to become a person's definition. In The Addict's Wake, Husain realizes and embraces that those in the film who struggle with addiction are human being worthy of our respect, attention, support, and investment. The Addict's Wake incorporates a wealth of interviews throughout the film's just shy of two-hour running time from local professionals to the families of those we've lost to addiction to area law enforcement, teachers, and others working to make Brown County a better place to live for all.
While it would be difficult to shoot in Brown County without capturing its beauty, Emmy Award-winning D.P. Bryan Boyd's lensing is a constant reminder of the ways in which beauty and tragedy can co-exist as our lives are seldom ever all good or all bad. Despite the challenges of working on a modestly budgeted film, Boyd's lensing immerses us in Brown County's culture and connects us irrevocably in the lives that we encounter in The Addict's Wake.
Husain has obviously immersed himself in this community as evidenced by interviews with some young men incarcerated locally and also with the lives of Brown County residents who've lost loved ones to addiction. He doesn't rush their stories, occasional lingering moments perhaps extending the film longer than you might expect as Husain gives us all time to listen and reflect.
There's a simplicity to The Addict's Wake that works to its advantage. With Boyd focusing the lens on real Indiana people, there's a rawness to the footage that unfolds here that makes these stories feel more real, occasionally more heartbreaking, and occasionally more exhilarating. There's a simple, undeniable honesty that radiates from every frame of The Addict's Wake that draws you in and makes you want to understand the world around you better.
Shot entirely in Indiana, The Addict's Wake is a powerful, vital reminder of the humanity that lies underneath the word "addict" and a reminder of the humanity that exists within the communities that struggle with rising addiction. It's a reminder of our common bonds and a desperate plea to do whatever we can to heal lives and build bridges to one another.
An ideal choice for Heartland's Indiana Spotlight Award, The Addict's Wake continues on its journey of virtual screenings, indie fests, and committed effort to make Indiana a better place to live for all Hoosiers.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic