Hope Village | 1 hour, 10 minutes | Directed by Ri-Karlo Handy; available on Prime Video and Google Play | 2020
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Shyanna's journey begins when she's released from jail following an alcohol-fueled fight with her mother. She discovered she was pregnant herself the day she began serving her sentence.
Stephanie breaks into a house to steal prescription drugs, is shot by the home's occupant and continues using while on crutches; she only reaches "hope village" when a friend's mother insists on driving her there. The woman drops Stephanie off with some food, money and a newspaper clipping of her own daughter's obituary.
"Hope village" is the Mary Hall Freedom House (now called Freedom Village). It was among the first long-term care and sober living facilities for women in Georgia, founded in the Atlanta area in 1996 by Lucy Hall. A charismatic and driven woman who battled addiction herself and lost her mother to it, Hall granted filmmaker Ri-Karlo Handy access to follow seven of Mary Hall's 200 residents through the six months from intake through graduation. Some have gone to inpatient treatment seven times or more already; others have lost custody of their children.
But this is a recovery documentary, and the focus is on the intensive, slow, unglamorous and absolutely critical day in and day out work of learning to live sober. The women repair their bonds with their young children, grapple with new emotions in group therapy sessions and begin job training.
Lucy Hall and her story serve to inspire both the women and the viewer, but what sets the film apart is its honesty about the reality that recovery requires a lot of time, space and grace — and too few places in American society provide that. "If the community and the place where you grew up and the place where your family lives isn't going to be about redemption, who is?" asks an advocate friend of Hall's.
Clocking in at a little over an hour, "Hope Village" is a great watch to supercharge discussions in your recovery group or sober circles. Some of the stories will no doubt be relatable, and the film provides a thought-provoking jumping-off point for conversations about mental health and addiction, generational trauma, the role of faith in recovery, the incredibly entrenched stigmas against people who used drugs and the challenges of recovery that may be unique to women.
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