West Virginia's heroines attend Oscars for opioid doc
By FRED PACE
Mar. 10, 2018
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A heart-wrenching documentary featuring a fire chief, a judge and a ministry leader doing their best to combat the opioid epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia, was competing for an Oscar last Sunday night at the 90th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.
The film "Heroin(e)" by Elaine Sheldon was nominated for Best Short Documentary.
Although the film did not win, Huntington's three heroines featured in the film attended the ceremony. Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader was not dressed in her fire chief uniform, Cabell County Family Court Judge Patricia Keller was not in her court robe, and Necia Freeman was not handing out free brown bag lunches. Instead Huntington's three heroines wore beautiful black gowns to the red carpet and ceremony.
"What an honor to be a part of a film nominated for an Academy Award," Rader said in a text message while sitting with Keller during the ceremony.
The women said they were excited, but added they were going there to represent something more than glitz or glamour.
"It's amazing to be able to be a part of a film showing that everyone is worth saving, everyone is worth investing in, and Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us all, no matter if we are man or woman, no matter if you are addicted to drugs or you are clean, no matter if you are a woman of the streets or a woman who got to go to the Oscars," Freeman said.
Having spoken at countless screenings of "Heroin(e)" since Netflix released it in September, they said they were going to California to represent Huntington's effort to help people recover from opioid addiction and to promote the film's overarching message of hope.
"'Heroin(e)' has brought awareness and education to many around the country. It has also given a voice to so many suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder," Rader said. "My hope is that Huntington is joined by state and federal partners to become the center of solutions."
Keller said the experience has been incredible.
"Filmmaker and director Elaine McMillion Sheldon has given us a platform to continue the discussion and efforts to combat not just a West Virginia problem, but a nationwide problem," she said.
Sheldon has been working on another film about four men in a northern West Virginia recovery center and hopes to release it this year as a way to keep the conversation going. She said she is grateful that the film has reached this point and made such an impact.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said "Heroin(e)" is an accurate snapshot of the battle that is being fought in every city in the nation.
"The three heroines are our heroines and represent the determination and compassion of our community," Williams said. "Our heroines symbolize the solution that our nation and indeed our community are seeking."
The film to win the Best Short Documentary category was "Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405."
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com