Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Deadly By Design On Doc Zone

I know it's fun sampling all the new American series before some get pink slipped.
But save just an hour for a real novelty: TV for the mind.
The new documentary is titled Deadly By Design and reveals that one of Canada's top exports is the often deadly drug called Ecstasy.
The hour is expertly directed (and written) by Jaime Escalion-Buraglia and produced by Linda Stregger.
Its calm, matter-of-fact approach got to me after awhile. Rather than sensationalize the subject it builds a case meticulously through interviews and on-site investigations.
I probably have heard of Ecstasy but aside from the name I was completely ignorant.
"So are 75 per cent of Canadians," explains Stregger. "But it is fast becoming a drug for teenagers because of its cheapness --one pill costs $5.
"It's synthetic --the chemical name is methylenedioxymethamphetamine --commonly called MDMA."
The film crew went underground to show how it is made. In one riveting scene they tag along with an RCMP  ResponseTeam who burst into a normal looking suburban home only to discover a house filled with the chemicals which are "cooked" to produce the substance.
The saddest scenes are interviews with a pert, young user who recounts the harrowing saga of how her best friend Daniel overdosed on a bad supply and died. He'd only been on drugs a short time --his parents paid him $2,000 if he remained drug free until he hit age 16.
"Because she's a teen her mom was right there during the interview," Stegger says."Yes, her youth is shocking but that's the point, Ecstasy is so easy to get. She was using her allowance to get her pills."
And Stegger sadly says she is hearing the shy, vulnerable teen may have relapsed in recent months and needs more treatment.
But what makes Canada one of the world's leading producers of this drug?
The statistics say 75 per cent of Japan's Ecstasy gets produced here  and 65 per cent of the stuff in Australia comes from our plants.
One of the biggest problems Stegger and crew faced was the necessity for anonymity. The most important person -- one of the "master chef" who cooks up the potions --is seen only in darkness --he says everyone else his own age who started with him in the production racket has died.
The cooking mechanism is dangerous and often produces deadly explosions. And there's the reaction of the Mob who will countenance nothing short of complete submission --after one botched batch he was beaten severely and his jaw broken as a warning.
To me the most terrifying moments come when we see how the residue gets tossed into rivers to pollute our drinking water. Homes have to be dug up because the water table has been severely compromised. The costs are huge and these clean ups go on for months.
Maybe Breaking Bad's end might have educated some viewers into the evils of Ecstasy.
The current crisis began in 2011 when 30 drug takers died in the ERs of western  Canadian hospitals signaling that the drug was increasingly being tampered with --some pills even contained talcum powder as an additive.
It would have been easy to sensationalize this material. But the filmmakers step back and let the story unfold even as they are educating viewers. Yes, there are the requisite talking heads but their talk I found fascinating.
I'm more upset by that teen talking about how unfair it is now that her best friend has died --it's a terror ride so easy to get into and sometimes impossible to survive.
MY RATING: ****.

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