Home #Hwoodtimes Slamdance-winning documentary Inheritance takes a probing look inside the opioid addiction crisis...

Slamdance-winning documentary Inheritance takes a probing look inside the opioid addiction crisis in America

By Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/24/24 – When one thinks about their inheritance, they think of the legal transfer of property from the owner, usually a relative, to a new owner, or an heir or heirs upon the death of the owner.

6 years in the life of Curtis and his family

But for Curtis, the word has a different – and darker – meaning. A bright and hopeful boy, Curtis grew up from age 12 to 18 surrounded by love and struggle, while every adult in his family – his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – are all battling addiction to opioids,

In Curtis’ America, people and communities are struggling with an epidemic of substance abuse, joblessness and a deteriorating sense of belonging.  Inheritance, a documentary film from husband-and-wife producer/directors Matt Moyer and Amy Toensing, explores the underlying causes of the opioid epidemic in America through the eyes of one boy and five generations of his extended family over a period of 11 years.

Written by Moyer, Toensing and Curtis Whitear, the film claimed the Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize at the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival. Moyer and Toensing talked about the film recently in an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Times, and they talked about how they came to make this remarkable film about this Ohio family.

Click below for our exclusive interview:

“We kind of say we fell into the story a little but,” Moyer said, adding he and Toensing were photojournalists, still photographers working for publications for many years, when Moyer put that career on hold to return to school. It was during a shoot for a class that he met one of the people who became one of the main characters in Inheritance.

Still grabs from Inheritance Film, LLC, 2023 Copyright

“Amy and I were working on a short film together that deeper and deeper into the story, and it ended up leading us into our 11-yeatr journey of telling this story,” Moyer said.

He added that the process of making Inheritance had an unintended outcome as he and his wife both got a look at how substance abuse and struggles with mental health have been present and have played roles in their own families.

“We didn’t set out to do specifically a documentary about inherited trauma and addiction,” Toensing said of her husband’s chance meeting with this character while working on his master’s degree. “At first, it was a redemption story about somebody who was recovering from being in prison for seven years at a young age, and how he was re-entering life basically. Matt caught him right when he had been released from prison and the opioid epidemic revealed itself right in front of our eyes.”

Amy Toensing (@AmyToensing)

The couple found themselves in the middle of a community and a family engulfed by this drug abuse epidemic. The project began IN 2012 and led the couple to this amazing look at a family caught up in this 21st Century American tragedy.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid-involved overdose deaths have been increasing since 2010 from 21,089 to 80,411 reported overdose deaths in 2021. Curtis and his family are more than just statistics to the filmmakers, though.

In the wake of the film, an Impact Campaign has been launched to raise awareness about children caught in cycles of poverty, intergenerational trauma and substance abuse, to humanize those struggling with substance abuse, and to be a catalyst for funding for mental health services for children and their families.

Our team at the premier of Matt Moyer and Amy Toensing’s INHERITANCE in Park City.

According to the film’s website, donations to the campaign will be used in several ways, including amplifying the message of the film with screenings in hard hit communities, educational settings, and with policymakers.

Also, funds will allow Curtis and his grandmother, Cheryl, to attend screenings of the film, “so they can be an active part of the conversation.” Additionally, the cost of completing the film’s audio mixing and editing will be covered, an experienced producer will be hired for the Impact Campaign to target foundation and grant funds to further the Impact goals.

Find out more at the Inheritance website.