Local artist Kat Kosiancic hopes her documentary Be My Junkie Shadow will change perceptions, challenge stereotypes and debunk myths about women living on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside when it shows at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse Saturday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.
In her compelling documentary, Kosiancic interviews seven women living on the streets of Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside during the highly public investigation into prostitutes from those streets mysteriously vanishing.
At first Kosiancic was introduced to the women in the area while helping a friend on a photography assignment. "My friend told me I should do a documentary because the women felt so comfortable with me and they were just opening up to me. At first I kind of refused," said Kosiancic.
Later this friend would push Kosiancic to do a few interviews, which led to more. Soon Kosiancic felt a need to introduce others to these women who are often a product of circumstance once a drug addiction has kicked in.
"It turned out to be more like I was visiting with them. Soon I felt like I was a liaison and responsible for telling people what happened to them, and I had a means to put it out," said Kosiancic.
At the time, she had just returned from a tour around California after releasing her CD Just Some Chick. Until Be My Junkie Shadow, Kosiancic had not added video journalist to her list of entrepreneurial efforts as a singer/songwriter, photographer and designer.
But her connection to the women she was interviewing and the power of their stories, all centred around drug use of some sort, compelled Kosiancic to pick up the torch for the women, to not only tell their story but try to help.
"I became friends with them and tried to help get some of them into detox. I couldn't get them into any type of service because there are no services available, or what is there is full and they're on a waiting list forever. Meanwhile, they're getting worse," said Kosiancic.
She made some lasting friendships with the women she interviewed during Be My Junkie Shadow. The name comes from an invitation from one of the women during her interview.
Since the time the documentary was filmed in 2001 and its eminent showing on the Coast, three of those women interviewed by Kosiancic have died.
One of those woman, Denise, is featured in the photograph with Kosiancic. Her childhood held horrifying tales of rape and sexual abuse by family members and foster parents that led her to huffing gas at an early age and progressing to hard core drugs in her early teens. "When Denise died, I was the only phone number they found in her pocket," said Kosiancic, who had high hopes for Denise to attend university and turn her life around.
That news weighed heavily on Kosiancic's heart, combined with the news that two other friends from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside had passed away.
She has since moved from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast, where she has been wrestling with showing the film again. Recently, articles about drug abuse in Coast Reporter spurred Kosiancic to show her film publicly on the Coast for the first time and investigate ways to show Be My Junkie Shadow in schools on the Coast. She did similar presentations in Vancouver schools to rave reviews by students and staff.The film is raw and has some coarse language, so it may not be suitable for all audiences."I think it's more powerful coming from the women, though, in their words. They know what they're talking about because they've experienced it. They want to shed light on the situation for others. No one who's there wants anyone else to end up there," Kosiancic said.
She hopes many on the Coast will see her film, meet her and join in a discussion after the showing of the documentary.
Tickets for this event, scheduled for Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Heritage Playhouse, are $10 for adults and $5 for teens. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the door.
After Be My Junkie Shadow Kosiancic will show her four-minute music video of a song she wrote called Still Have My Dreams. It's juxtaposed with photo images of women in the downtown eastside.
For more information visit www.Ellavon.com.