The Stairs

Winner – Toronto Film Critics Association Best Canadian Film of 2016

The documentary The Stairs deals with drug abuse, the sex trade and the road to recovery in Regent Park, a neighbourhood long stigmatized by its reputation of poverty and violence.

Poster for the award-winning documentary The StairsIt’s tempting to call The Stairs ‘a hard look at the epidemic of drug abuse and violence.’ But that feels a bit cheap. While director Hugh Gibson doesn’t shy away from the realities of the local drug and sex trade, his camera lingering as users huff crack in sunken stairwells, The Stairs rarely feels exploitative, gawking or self-consciously gritty. ‘To me, it was more about showing an honest depiction of what their lives were like,’ Gibson says. ‘It was important to have the community embrace it. And to have the community involved in the filmmaking process, to take ownership of their own storytelling.’

Shot over five years, The Stairs feels lived-in and intimate. Gibson explores the issues facing Regent Park locals – the film follows recovering addict Marty Thompson, a former sex worker named Roxanne Smith, and Greg Bell, a crack user involved in a protracted legal battle against a cop accused of excessive force – through their own stories, never once deferring to dusty statistics or the ‘wisdom’ of academics and policy makers. In doing so, it makes a persuasive case for the power and efficacy of harm reduction; a public-health strategy that focuses on practically minimizing the risks associated with drug use and sex work.

– John Semley, The Globe And Mail


At both screenings, director Hugh Gibson will be present to participate in a post-screenings panel discussions on harm reduction in Ottawa.

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