Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Janet McIntyre's latest film Faded might be the saddest locally-produced documentary in recent memory.  It also feels terribly important, shedding light on a serious social problem in a complex yet approachable way.  Sporting the subtitle Girls + Binge Drinking, the accessibility of the piece is a large part of its success, offering hope that it can be used as a pedagogical tool for opening up conversations with the very demographic that it documents.

Faded takes a long, sobering look at four young women, ranging in age from their late teen years to their early twenties, long after they've established unhealthy patterns around alcohol consumption.

Cassidy, a young artistically-driven girl, tells McIntyre that she began drinking at age 13 in the company of her overly permissive parents.  Sharon, an Indonesian immigrant whose family relocated to Oregon when she was 15, blames the unwelcome move for her descent into alcoholism and temporary homelessness.  Alyssa, a high-school student living with her father, pinpoints her mom's desertion of her as one reason why she drinks.  And Holley, a former member of Portland's Rose City Rollers, speaks of the social and media-driven pressures that women experience, casting those forces (as well as the pain experienced during roller derby matches) as justifications for her excesses.

At first, McIntyre allows her subjects the momentary luxury of offering up their reasons before having those defenses contextualized as mere rationalization by Jonathan Lurie, a clinical psychologist specializing in adolescent psychology.  From that point on, Faded rejects any arguments the girls offer up for their sustained abuse, choosing instead to watch as their lives unfold, some making better choices while others continue to drink.

In many ways, Faded reminds one of Lauren Greenfield's exceptionally important and disturbing documentary, Thin, a movie about eating disorders that's hard to shake off, even years after seeing it.  McIntyre's film at least offers more hope for some of its subjects than that 2006 film.  And yet, it's the wider view offered up by Faded that chills the most; the statistical information and cultural attitudes (the latter offered up via a panoply of quotes derived from art, literature and celebrities) cited confirm that there's more than a kernel of truth to Holley's claim that the culture demands more than what actual girls can deliver, who suffer the worst indignities when either buying into those roles or choosing to check out via the route of self-abuse.

Faded is not the easiest film to watch.  McIntyre amply displays how each girl's potential has been either sabotaged or delayed by their self-destructive impulses.  But, as a piece aimed towards spreading awareness on a seldom-broached topic, its value is immediately felt.

Faded: Girls + Binge Drinking will screen at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on March 15th at 7pm.

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