‘1982’: A Film About Crack Cocaine, Trauma and Transcendence

“Part of the reason why I wanted to make this movie is I’m all about making a difference through film,” says writer, producer and director Tommy Oliver. That’s why his personal stamp is found all throughout 1982, a movie charting the course of a man struggling to protect his gifted daughter from her mother’s drug addiction. “I wanted to make a film that encourages a conversation and helps people reevaluate their choices, and present them with as much information as possible to make a decision.”

Debuting the film during the Toronto International Film Festival, Oliver—joined by Hill Harper, who plays dedicated father Tim Brown—shared six insights on the story, the filmmaking process, and why he thinks we’re approaching the drug epidemic in the wrong way.

The story comes from Oliver’s history.
As is often the case with great art, you create what you know—and Oliver did exactly that in writing the script from his own experience of dealing with the emotions he had surrounding growing up with a mother who was addicted to crack. “Fortunately I’ve dealt with a lot of the baggage against that in the project, so it wasn’t as hard as it might have been,” Oliver shares. “But it was a long process, and it was the first time I sat down and decided to take this seriously. And it worked out.”

The tale is approached from a universal standpoint.
“I hope people see 1982 as an American story, because it is—it’s a story about a family,” Harper says. “It could be any family. It happens to be crack cocaine in the African-American community in Philadelphia, but it could be a meth-addicted family in West Virginia, it could be an alcohol-related family in Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey…it doesn’t matter. It’s about family and what lengths a father will go to to protect it. And I think when we talk about the universality of it, that’s what people resonate with.”

In a way, Oliver was rewriting his past.
When Oliver was dealing with his childhood, he did so without the assistance of a father—an issue that he decided to remedy in the film. “Hill’s character is a combination of parts of me, and parts of what I would’ve liked to have had in a father,” he shares. “In a way I was casting who I would’ve liked to have been my dad. And the sort of person Hill represented—just a hard-working, salt-of-the-earth kind of person who was thrilled to do whatever it takes and loves you without question? That’s the kind of person you want in your corner.”

The film is a return to traditional storytelling.
Harpes explains, “The film doesn’t rely on stunt casting, jokes, things blowing up or chase sequences, it relies on storytelling, acting, and that the audience is smarter than we give them credit for,” he says, adding that he knows it might be frustrating for the audience to watch Tim’s journey knowing what they know now.

“He’s struggling to figure it out, and he doesn’t know what to do—because you have to remember, in 1982 crack cocaine was new,” Harper notes. “But even as stuff is spinning out of control, he figures out some kind of solution that somehow saves the family. And I think you’re left with the idea that if you stay in it and you battle, work hard and show up in it every day, you can win. And defeat anything. I think that’s the message of the film, and it’s a good message for all of us.”

This marks young Troi Zee’s first film.
Though she’s done TV, Zee—playing the part of Maya, the young girl affected by her mother’s addiction—Zee and Oliver bonded during the shoot. “We had an amazing friendship, and this being her first time on something like this, she cried a lot,” Oliver shared. “So every tear you see of hers is real—actually, every tear from everyone is real, because people were really just going there. It was powerful.”

Oliver hopes the film will open a new dialogue about the drug epidemic.
“My view on this might be a bit controversial, but it’s a lot of what you see and don’t see in the film,” Oliver says. “But no matter where the drugs come from, no matter who’s behind it, it comes down to the individual who chooses to do it. It’s the same with meth or alcohol—nobody is forcing anyone to do it. So it’s up to each of us—if you don’t want to do it, don’t. We all have a choice. And it’s a matter of choosing to have a better life or not—and letting the alcohol, or the heroin, or the crack win.”

Original article from TakePart

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