Anonymous Sister


TYPE
: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production

LOGLINE

Anonymous Sister is a firsthand portrait of one family’s journey through the opioid epidemic.

SYNOPSIS

When a young woman turns to the camera for refuge, she ends up with a firsthand account of what will become the deadliest man-made epidemic in United States history. Thirty years in the making, Anonymous Sister is two time Emmy Award®-winning director, Jamie Boyle's chronicle of her family's fall into opioid addiction, providing a poignant and timely study of what it means to experience life in all of its beauty and pain.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

“The camera makes you forget you’re there. It gives you both a point of connection and a point of separation.”

So begins Anonymous Sister––a visual memoir that chronicles a time in my life when a handheld Super 8 camera was the only thing that stood between me and the inconceivable reality on the other side of the lens, as I watched my loved ones succumb to an unknown, unnamed epidemic.

Anonymous Sister is a recounting of what the opioid crisis looked like before it was labeled as such, when it entered your home under the guise of standard healthcare, when those to whom we entrust our lives became the greatest threat to it, when there was nothing left to do but bear witness. It began as a teenage girl’s scream into the wind.

I was drawn to the camera at a very young age, unaware that it would become my sole weapon against a tidal wave of misinformation disseminated by some of the most powerful and corrupt forces in the world. To document the life going out of someone is an excruciating thing. To do it when it is your mother’s life, your sister’s, may seem to be a form of self-torture. It certainly walks a tenuous line between preservation and destruction. What it did was offer me a way to look at something that I couldn’t otherwise. That camera would accompany me on my darkest days and suspend time, holding them alive and breathing for one more moment.

A decade after her and my mom escaped the deadly and horrifyingly common toll of opioid addiction, my sister announced she was pregnant. It would be her first major interaction with the medical community since getting off opioids. The countless number of people we knew who’d relapsed at the hands of medical professionals immediately came to mind and I realized a number of things at once––that my sister and mom’s sobriety, and their lives, were on extremely fragile footing all of the time but especially when interacting with doctors, that medical practice in the U.S. had long ago been bought and paid for, and that the film I’d started ten years earlier was far from complete. I turned to the camera again, now an adult for whom documenting had become my life’s work and primary coping mechanism––my own form of addiction.

This time, when I looked at life through a camera, what I saw was the unspeakable ramifications of human vice and corruption, staggering numbers of sisters and mothers gone, millions of lives irreparably altered, and sky-high rates of opioid prescribing. I saw a nation haunted by the ghosts of its needlessly dead, with no way to stop the destruction in the face of a system that consistently sacrifices lives at the altar of the almighty dollar. The end result speaks to the pull of escape, of refuge, and the various places we seek it––substances, money, work, family, art. It leaves us with unanswered, uncomfortable questions about what happens when those needs inevitably collide, when human life becomes a casualty of human greed.

This film is our story. It belongs to all of us. Because when all is said and done, my family’s story is unique in only one respect—we lived to tell it.

KEY CREW

Jamie Boyle - Director/Editor

Jamie Boyle is a two-time Emmy winning documentary filmmaker. Her work has played at Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, LA Film Fest, Full Frame, Hot Docs, True/False, Human Rights Watch, and many others. She was recently selected for the 2019 DOC NYC 40 Under 40 list. She was the editor, producer, and cinematographer for Jackson, which premiered on SHOWTIME and won the News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary in 2018. Jackson premiered at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival and was awarded over a dozen Grand Jury Awards for Best Documentary. In 2018 she edited Trans in America: Texas Strong, winner of the 2019 News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Short Documentary. Texas Strong premiered in 2019 at SXSW and launched on them., TeenVogue and Conde Nast’s new LGBTQ+ platform. She was the Associate Editor and Production Manager on E-­TEAM, which won the Cinematography Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for two News and Documentary Emmys, and premiered on NETFLIX. She is in the midst of directing a personal feature documentary which has received support from Sundance Documentary Fund, Sundance Catalyst, IDA Enterprise Fund, Fork Films, NYSCA, and others.

Marilyn Ness - Producer

Marilyn Ness is a two-time Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont Award-winning filmmaker, working as a producer and a director. Her most recent film, Charm City, will premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. She produced Cameraperson (dir. Kirsten Johnson), which premiered at Sundance 2016, was released by the Criterion Collection, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Awards. Marilyn produced Trapped (dir. Dawn Porter) which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, received the Jury Prize for Social Impact Filmmaking and screened nationally on PBS. She also produced Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman's feature documentary E-TEAM, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and was bought by Netflix Original, as well as Johanna Hamilton's feature documentary 1971 which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast on Independent Lens in 2015. She directed the documentary feature film Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale that broadcast nationally on PBS in 2011.

Elizabeth Westrate - Producer

Elizabeth Westrate is a filmmaker with over twenty years of production experience, leading complex international projects for a broad range of clients. Her work has been broadcast widely on PBS, HBO, Amazon, NBC, Sundance Channel, Public Radio International and at major film festivals and museums around the world. Westrate is currently in preproduction as Series Producer for a ten-part documentary series for children featuring musical artist, Ben Folds, for Fred Rogers Productions Westrate was Director and Producer of the critically acclaimed documentary A FAMILY UNDERTAKING (PBS/POV), as well as THE JAMES WOLFENSOHN TRIBUTE PROJECT, PASSING ON THE GIFT and many other films. She is was Series Producer of I CONTAIN MULTITUDES, a twelve part science series for PBS Digital and HHMI, and also thirty episodes of the innovative ecological PBS series, E2: E2 DESIGN, E2 ENERGY and E2 TRANSPORT. She has acted as Line Producer for high-profile documentary projects such as Dror Moreh’s THE HUMAN FACTOR (Telluride 2019), Roger Ross Williams’ AMERICAN JAIL (CNN Films 2018), and multiple projects for BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and Thrill Hill with director Thom Zimny.

Eliza Licht - Impact Producer

Eliza has been working in the social-issue documentary field for 20 years as an engagement strategist, impact producer, and television executive. She works closely with clients to develop their goals and vision for engagement and impact to maximize the impact and visibility of their films. At Red Owl, she creates and executes campaigns that implement overall strategy, partnership development, the production of high-quality educational resources, as well as tracking, measuring, and evaluating impact. Before Red Owl, Eliza spent 17 years building and expanding the community engagement and education department at the PBS documentary series POV. As Vice President of Content Strategy and Engagement, she set priorities and direction for the organization, along with EPs and fellow executive staff, oversaw the Community Engagement, Communication, and Programs departments, worked closely with the programming team on series selection, and spearheaded broadcast campaigns for over 250 films. Under Licht’s leadership, POV saw a 1000% increase in events, including over 800 screenings annually, and over 46,000 direct engagements with in-person audience members. Eliza has served on juries for DOC NYC, Hot Springs Film Festival, and Brooklyn Film Festival, and on funding panels for the National Endowment of the Arts, Black Public Media, and the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Saul MacWilliams - Composer

Saul Simon MacWilliams is an Emmy nominated, Los Angeles based film composer. MacWilliams has worked closely and extensively with composer and producer Dan Romer on films including his Oscar nominated feature 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', 'Digging for Fire', 'Finders Keepers', 'Mediterrania', 'Beasts of No Nation' and ABC's The Good Doctor. Saul co-scored HBO's Emmy winning documentary 'Jim : The James Foley Story' as well as Amazon's 'Gleason', which took the 2016 Sundance Audience Award. In 2017, Saul scored HBO's ‘Becoming Warren Buffett’ as well as co-scoring the Netflix documentary 'Chasing Coral' which won the Sundance Audience Award and earned him and Romer an Emmy nomination. In 2018 MacWilliams scored HBO's Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, 'King In The Wilderness', directed by Peter Kunhardt and Co-Scored Clay Tweel's award winning documentary 'Out of Omaha'. MacWilliams scored the Anton Yelchin biopic, 'Love, Antosha', which premiered at Sundance '19 followed by a theatrical release.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny - Medical Advisor

Dr. Andrew Kolodny is the Medical Director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. His primary area of focus is the prescription opioid and heroin crisis devastating families and communities across the country. He is also the executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, an organization with a mission to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by overprescribing of opioid analgesics. Dr. Kolodny previously served as Chief Medical Officer for Phoenix House, a national non profit addiction treatment agency and Chair of Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Kolodny has a long-standing interest in public health. He began his career working for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the Office of the Executive Deputy Commissioner. For New York City, he helped develop and implement multiple programs to improve the health of New Yorkers and save lives, including city-wide buprenorphine programs, naloxone overdose prevention programs and emergency room-based screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) programs for drug and alcohol misuse.

 

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