After months of research, interviews, filming and editing, we finally launched the People and Dancefloors documentary in November 2019 at the University of Greenwich.
Screened for the first time in public, the 25-minutes film attracted a large and very diverse audience. Academics and practitioners from the fields of drug policy, harm reduction and mental health responded positively to the invitation. Parents, young people, and many interested in dancefloor culture also joined us. This made for a lively discussion between the audience and the panel after the screening.
Breaking the taboo
One of the most memorable moments of the discussion was the intervention of a mother, who came to watch the film with her 20 year old son. She explained that the film had educated her and allowed her to better understand her children’s motivations in their involvement with drugs and dancefloors.
In this case, the stigma associated with drugs and their use, which makes them a taboo subject, had potentially prevented some meaningful and honest conversations between herself and her children. She said she could see the potential of the film being shown to parents, who like herself, wanted to better understand their children across any cultural or generational divide, overcoming some of the negative effects of the stigma and taboo surrounding drugs. This was a very unexpected and welcome turn to the discussion.
The stigma and taboo surrounding drug use are heavily mentioned by the participants in the film. Although the experiences are complex and nuanced and the stories vary, all tended to agree that a more open and honest discussion was needed. Ignoring the issue of drugs in our society, their benefits and potential dangers, is no longer a viable solution. Unfortunately, as many have explained, the stigma surrounding these topics does not allow for these honest discussions to take place.
Breaking this taboo is one of the main objectives of the project. Drug policy is one of the few areas of public policy development where there is such a significant degree of marginalisation. Providing a space for people who use drugs to talk openly and publicly about their experiences is important to challenge misconceptions about users themselves. In their portrayal, they come accross as reasonable people with lives, careers and families. They, as we do, often suffer from the mythologies and inaccuracies that frame the public understanding of their experiences.
After a successful launch, we are now in the process of organising many more film screenings and we hope they will elicit lively discussion and varied responses from audience participants.