“It’s easy to disregard people who you see on the street, and never actually think about where they come from and who they are,” says Colorado state Sen. Brittany Pettersen in the trailer for a documentary film, “Coming Clean,” set for a virtual premiere tonight at the Bentonville Film Festival.
Pettersen hopes the film will humanize the people who struggle with addiction and spotlight tangible ways to address the biggest drug epidemic in U. S. history.
“The call to action has never been more urgent than now because the global pandemic has compounded the devastation of this crisis,” says Pettersen, who’s widely known for her advocacy at the Capitol. “Early data suggests that there’s been a 50% increase in drug overdose deaths across the U.S. because of lack of access to treatment, isolation, and increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic.”
Producer Ondi Timoner and her crew followed Pettersen and her family at the Capitol and elsewhere over two and a half years.
The film focuses on stories of people who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic and are joining with political leaders to highlight the policies that saved their lives.
In Pettersen’s case, the impacted person is her mother, Stacy Pettersen, who is in recovery after prescription opioid addiction led a heroin addiction–and over 30 overdoses that nearly killed her.
“The federal and state government were on the hook for almost $1 million for just one year to keep my mom alive in the ICU, while denying the coverage of care that would have kept her out of the ICU for a tiny fraction of the cost,” says Pettersen, adding that her mother’s struggle “informed and inspired my policy work to close the gaps in the failing system.”
Timoner, whose much-acclaimed debut documentary “DIG” won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize in 2004, filmed Pettersen and her mother on the campaign trail, in Washington DC, Utah, and domestic settings.
Timoner was moved to make the film to try to find solutions to the “overwhelmingly dark subject of opioid addiction.”
“I was compelled to make ‘COMING CLEAN’ to bring hope and solutions for our recovery to the overwhelmingly dark subject of opioid addiction, which is the deadliest drug epidemic in history,” said Timoner in a statement. “…In order to bring empathy to this highly stigmatized subject, we set out to explore the sources of the pain we’re medicating and follow empowering stories of personal connection over several years, where our characters shed the stigma and personal shame to unite against the monster drug of dependency and impact policy on the national stage.”
The film will air online tonight at 6 p.m. A live Q&A, featuring Pettersen, her mother, Timoner, and others who participated in the film, will begin online at 7:40 p.m.
The 96-minute documentary will be available for viewing for 24 hours after tonight’s premiere. Tickets are available here for $12.