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‘J Is For Junkie’: Another Sordid View Of Crack In America by Nikki Liverpool (Film Review)

‘J is for Junkie’: another sordid view of crack in America

Documentaries on crack addiction often play like Film School 101 and that is exactly how J is for Junkie approaches the subject. Corey Davis, the newbie filmmaker who managed to get blurbs from both media mogul Damon Dash and hip hop artist, Lupe Fiasco, filmed footage over three days in October in Atlanta at a crack enclave familiarly known as “The Living Room”. Over the opening credits, Davis lets us into a little background about himself: his own father was a junkie, too.

We’re introduced to Judy, 52, who sounds like and looks like a man, whose presence is weaved throughout the whole documentary. She’s been on crack for over 30 years and who wants to get off the stuff to rejoin her family and society, but, as is typical for most junkies, can’t seem to find it within herself to do so. Other characters come through to tell their story and their various reasons, some would say excuses, for having tried crack in the first place. Either a woman turned them out or their mother died “killed by Grady (Hospital)”. For some reason Davis chooses to film John, a homeless man, just out of prison for attempted murder, looking for work. His story is tragic, but he’s not a junkie, so it’s unclear why he’s featured at all.

Following the Film School 101 checklist, Judy shows us how to get crack paraphernalia, how to prep it and how to smoke it. It’s not particularly gritty, but tries to be. Hardy in the league of HBO’s The Corner or even Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy. The soundtrack is great, but tends to sometimes drown out the dialogue, which too could have benefited from subtitles more often than used. This would certainly play better to audiences outside of Georgia.

I’d say overall the film is OK for a first feature, but just. It’s an impressive start to get a screening for someone so new to the industry, but I’d like see it more personalized. At the Q and A, the budding filmmaker makes no claim that the documentary was personal. I would have to agree, but I think that’s a mistake or perhaps he didn’t want to have to face that just as the film came up with no answers or solutions, either for those who inhabit the “Living Room” or even the auteur’s own father.

– Nikki Liverpool

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