Documentarian and filmmaker Mary Sue Connolly began a project nearly a year ago to honor and understand the passing of her nephew Paul Hartel, who had struggled with drug addiction and become an advocate for change.
Connolly says she found herself struggling to understand why this had happened to her family and why, based on her impression, that West Virginia was being targeted by the opioid industry.
“I was looking for support through my own grieving process and I was also just trying to understand what was going on,” said Connolly.
Connolly found that people were afraid and intimidated to share their addiction stories with her and were hesitant to be filmed and be related to.
After meeting a young woman named Breanne, Connolly had set her mind to make a film in the small rural town of Petersburg, West Virginia. She visited the area and saw that this small community had been hit hard by drugs and addiction.
“I met this girl online at this group called Warriors for Hope that is a group of people that have lost loved ones and are working in the recovery community,” continued Connolly.
“She was telling me about her story and I went to meet her and I just really impressed with and overwhelmed and bowled over by her story. It was just so incredible but also her frankness and the way she was really ready to talk about it and wanting to make a difference.”
The documentary tells the story of a young woman who changed her life from being a drug dealer and criminal to an addiction survivor and recovery advocate.
Connolly said everyone she met had lost somebody or had somebody in their lives who was suffering from addiction.
Connolly was trying to understand what was happening to people all across the state while carrying on the memory of her nephew, who hoped to end the stigma of addiction.