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The cinematic portrayal of people with substance use disorder as junkies, meth heads, crack heads and criminals has long been part of American pop culture. While not all criminals are addicts nor are all addicts criminals, some addicts do commit crimes. This month’s Saturday Night at the Movies film, In Their Shoes: Unheard Stories of Reentry & Recovery, takes a closer look at the dual stigma of addiction and incarceration. As always, this event is presented by REEL Recovery Film Festival in association with In The Rooms.

About the Film

The film follows four men who take part in a creative writing workshop while in prison called Writers Without Margins. Writers Without Margins is a non-profit in Boston that strives to promote the literary arts in underserved communities. The program serves the unseen and unheard struck by homelessness, trauma, poverty, disability and racism. The men profiled in the film are certainly part of a marginalized population. They are dehumanized by society’s lack of education and information about addiction and its impact on self, family and society. The addict himself internalizes this lack of understanding and compassion. In turn, the addict often continues destructive behavior and endures longer periods of incarceration.

Writing and Recovery

The creative writing process highlighted in In Their Shoes allows each of the men a safe place to be vulnerable and share their stories. Producer Natalia Livingston explains, “It’s easy to see in black-and-white terms and think everyone in prison is bad or evil. So, for me, it was eye-opening to dig deeper than that and see them as multi-dimensional people, to learn about how some of them experienced debilitating trauma and abuse and others just wanted to fit in…”. Writing serves a two-fold purpose. It gives the author the chance to tell their story, but also to experience the catharsis that happens from getting it (ie. feelings, the past, fear, trauma) up, out and onto the page. Many recovery and 12-step programs include writing and a moral inventory process, making the Writers Without Margins program a perfect fit for the re-entry program.

A Lasting Impact

When In Their Shoes: Unheard Stories of Reentry & Recovery played at the 2020 Virtual REEL Recovery Film Festival, it was the most requested and most watched film at the festival. A teacher made it required viewing for her students. In the end, not all of the men succeed. Two go back to prison in the middle of filming. But, how do we define success anyway? In AA, the highest goal is spiritual experience or a “psychic change”.  Throughout the film, we see Stephen, Marcel, Jean and Zach changed by the process. As the credits roll on the film, the viewer will be changed, too.

Watch the Film on Saturday Night

This is a film you won’t want to miss! Please join us this Saturday, January 9 at 9 PM Eastern for this free film screening! All you need is a free In The Rooms account to watch the movie. Simply sign up to become a member, then enter the virtual movie theatre.


Ahbra Kaye is the producer and curator of the 13 year-old REEL Recovery Film Festival and Symposium. The film festival is both a joy and a challenge that she is excited to continue in the virtual realm this year. Streaming November 5-11 on the REEL Recovery Film Channel. She is proud to be 5+years sober, a 3rd generation Angeleno and mother of 3 to Josh, Jordyn, Ellie, and two pirate dogs; Abby who has 3 legs and one-eyed Butters .

1 Comment

  1. 28 years in and out of AA most sobriety collected 3Months and a Couple of Days. People sure don’t have the sobriety they used to back in the day with the real old timers! I must bid farewell and go forward into a new journey, I do feel as if I have “Graduated” there is nothing left to learn ,we have the knowledge a person is either going to do it, or they are not!
    As they said in a Grateful Dead song “What A Long Strange Trip It has been”

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