Sean Dunne makes his feature-film-directing debut with the documentary, OXYANA which looks at the OxyContin epidemic in the West Virginia town of Oceana. OXYANA had it’s world premiere earlier this year at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, where the film received a Special Jury Mention in the World Documentary Competition, as well as a nod for Best New Documentary Director for filmmaker Sean Dunne. OXYANA will be released by the filmmakers for sale starting July 1, 2013.
Struggling with poverty and unemployment after the demise of its only industry—the mining trade that had historically nourished the local economy—Oceana, West Virginia, has become the epicenter of a drug scourge devastating towns across the country and leaving many good and honest communities forsaken. Known among its residents as “Oxyana” after the OxyContin epidemic quietly washing over this sleepy Appalachian town, Oceana is a tragically real example of the insidious spread of drug dependency in the United States today.
Set against the eerie backdrop of abandoned coal mines within the lush West Virginia landscape, to the melody of Deer Tick’s haunting score, Sean Dunne’s unflinchingly intimate documentary probes the lives of Oceana’s afflicted. He turns the camera on its many residents, allowing them to tell their stories in their own words and homes to illuminate how their unique stories have led them each to the same tragic inevitability of pill addiction. Dunne eschews the high-drama mode in which drug dependency stories are often framed in favor of a simple, sympathetic immersion in the day-to-day experience of a town living in the harsh grip of addiction.
“We recognized when we set out to make OXYANA just how sensitive the subject matter was, but once we started showing the film at festivals, we saw an urgent need to get this message out to a wider audience,” says Dunne. “By distributing the film ourselves through our website, we can quickly get the film to those who want and need to see it and hopefully spark a dialogue about prescription drug abuse in this country.”
Sean Dunne has directed five previous short documentaries, including The Archive (nominated for an Emmy in 2011), Man in Van, The Bowler, Stray Dawg and American Juggalo (named documentary of the year for 2011 by the website, Short of the Week). Hailed as the “master of fringe Americana” for his ability to realistically capture half-mythical corners of the country, Dunne’s approach to documentary is to give his subjects the ease and opportunity to find their own voices and his viewers the freedom to form their own conclusions.