The Stairs

Hugh GibsonCanada95 minutes201614AColourEnglish

Shot over the course of several years, Hugh Gibson’s profoundly affecting and compassionate documentary examines the lives of habitual drug users in Toronto’s Regent Park.

Intro and Q&A with director Hugh Gibson at the Friday October 7th, 6:45pm screening!

The 6:40pm screening on Wednesday October 12th will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Toronto Star Columnist Joe Fiorito and feature City councillors Joe Cressy and Gord Perks (both head Toronto’s Drug Strategy), Raffi Balian (South Riverdale CHC Project Coordinator) and film subject Roxanne Smith!

Hugh Gibson's compassionate and profoundly affecting The Stairs takes us inside Toronto's Regent Park Community Health Centre, whose staff of social workers includes both former and current drug users. These workers understand all too well what their clients are going through.

Shot over five years, Gibson's film focuses on three staff members: the loquacious, seemingly tireless Marty, who was so addicted at one point that, after being shot in a deal that went south, he stopped for a hit before going to the hospital; Roxanne, a former sex worker whose tales of life in the trade are beyond harrowing; and Greg, a biracial child of the 1960s consumed with a long-delayed legal case hinging on a police officer's use of excessive force.

As it draws us closer to Gibson's subjects, The Stairs challenges prejudices and preconceived notions. It also underlines how tentative sobriety and stability can be for people who have lived in addiction for years. In one of the film's rawest moments, Marty, when asked what kind of future he sees for himself, explains that "When you wake up and you're at that next day, you're very happy because it's another day you didn't smoke crack … I didn't do it yesterday, I'm not gonna do it today either. That's our happy ending. Cuz it never ends."

As the film progresses, Gibson subtly builds a wide-ranging portrait of the conditions that can nurture addiction, most notably poverty and homelessness. In its nuance, social conscience, and moving affection for its subjects, The Stairs is a worthy continuation of the tradition set by the NFB's legendary Unit B.

STEVE GRAVESTOCK

Addiction + RecoveryCrimeMental HealthUrban LifeCanadaBlack + African DiasporaDocumentary