(By: Emma Buchanan)
A documentary about the complex lives of sex workers and drug users in Toronto was shown in the image arts building last week (Nov. 13.)
The Stairs screened at 6:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, Hugh Gibson, and two of the film’s subjects.
The award-winning film, which premiered at TIFF last year, featured the different faces of Toronto’s Regent Park community and showed harm reduction treatment for drug use in practice.
“The people I met were incredible and really upended all kinds of preconceptions that I had,” Gibson said in the Q&A.
The film followed the lives of a sex worker named Roxanne Smith, a former crack addict named Martin “Marty” Thompson, and a functioning drug user named Greg Bell.
Though it featured gritty subject matter and scenes of drug use, there were many scenes that drew laughs from the audience, and the subjects of the film were honest about their experiences, both on-screen and off.
“Everybody has an addiction…mine just happens to be a little bit more expensive,” Bell said.
In the Q&A after the film, Thompson said the biggest misconception about drug users is that “they’re of no use.” Bell said not to underestimate drug users, and that they are resourceful and smart.
Thompson also spoke frankly about the relationship between director and subject when making the film.
“I trusted him, to be so open with him, he went into my home every Sunday for three years and followed me around,” he said.
Bell had a similar trust in the film’s director.
“We believed that he believed,” he said.
Gibson said he tried to approach the film with “a non-judgmental approach to the subject and the people.”
The film also detailed the efforts of Street Health, a harm-reduction program in the Toronto Regent Park area that distributes clean needles, condoms and other supplies for safe drug use and sex work to members of their community.
Averil Disovza, a fourth-year nursing student, was an audience member for the film and Q&A.
“People are interested in this…and that makes me really happy because I believe in it.”
The screening was presented by the faculty of community services, the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing and the School of Image Arts.
The auditorium was almost full, with around 70 people in attendance.
Thompson and Bell said that director Hugh Gibson and Roxanne Smith, who was unable to attend the screening at Ryerson, will be flying to India to show the documentary later this month.