In an interview with “We Are Moving Stories,” Oswald says, “I wanted to show the human side of the opioid epidemic by using an unpolished and at times clumsy form of vérité film, hoping to present a brief glimpse of what might otherwise remain below the surface.” He goes on to say, “…our viewers have consistently pointed out how on paper, this could have been another addiction-themed poverty porn flick. But that it wasn’t at all.”
He intended the documentary to be an exposé on the horrors of the opioid crisis, with the hope that showing the squalor and desperation of addiction would move the audience to positive action against the epidemic. However, the subject is revealed to be so heinous, so horrifically alien to the average experience, that the emotion evoked is revulsion, followed by a desire for a Silkwood shower, and the conclusion that we really should just nuke the site from orbit, as that’s the only way to be sure.
“…in the name of whatever gods may be, bless Daryl Gantt.”
Filmically, this piece needs some polish. There are misspellings in the interstitial title cards and other minor flaws that need to be addressed in the edit (note: on Monday 4-13-2020 the director sent an update through the production company informing us that these edits had been made in the distributed version of the film). Still, the punches land as they’re meant to. By the time you get to the credits cover version of Steve Winwood’s title song, you will be ready to jump out of your skin at the terrible state of the people shown.
Americans exist in this condition. Big Pharma aggressively markets addictive, profitable pain meds, and these ubiquitous drugs have seeped down into abandoned places and people. That these people are invisible and unknown is disgusting beyond the pale. Hasan Oswald shows us this life in Higher Love and calls us to action. Above all, holy s**t, in the name of whatever gods may be, bless Daryl Gantt. Wherever you are, sir, we salute you. Here’s hoping life ahead is good to you and your son.
Higher Love screened at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…Hell is a place called Camden, New Jersey"