Film reunited former addict and his demons

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 January, 2010, 12:00am

'Well, I learned one thing from this project. Never give a cheque to a former crackhead.'

You'd think it's not the best tag line for a documentary, but it sums up Coming Clean perfectly. It was a tongue-in-cheek remark from the executive producer, Jason Boyer, but also an honest one.

Filmed on the streets of New York and Hong Kong over two years, it's a documentary about the pain caused by drug addiction, told through the eyes of a former cocaine and crack addict, Paul Boyle (pictured).

The original premise of the documentary is that reformed crack addict Boyle - once a middle class entrepreneur who successfully hid his addiction whilst living and working in Hong Kong, North America and Europe - takes a camera crew into New York's crack houses to find one person who will voluntarily go into rehab.

But as time goes on and Boyle's old life starts coming back to haunt him, being around crack and all that goes with it soon threatens to destabilise his new sober lifestyle. What starts out as a cautionary tale with a planned happy ending suddenly becomes something very different.

As the documentary progresses, the question is whether he's able to help himself, let alone another person, and not relapse.

'I was in a crack house the day my son was born, that's how addicted I was,' Boyle said. 'When I took the first drag on that crack pipe I knew that was it. I thought to myself, 'This is going to kill me'.'

Nothing tells the story of the crack addict better than the excuses many of those interviewed came up with when offered the chance to go into rehab. There was always one reason or another not to go. The best came from a man who had no one to look after his dog if he ever tried to get clean. Excuses prove to be an addict's mainstay and during his crack addiction Boyle was no different, as his long-suffering Hong Kong girlfriend, who did not want to be named in the documentary, explained.

'It's like a never-ending story for Paul, but I didn't want it to be a never-ending story for me,' she said. 'His life was always good because he was high all of the time - for me it was a nightmare.'

As the documentary unfolds, the story is as much about Boyle's loved ones - and how they have been constantly let down over the years - as anything else.

Animation segments also are used to illustrate parts of Boyle's life when he first became a crack addict. One was in the Asian-Japanese style and one used 3-D computer technology. Both worked well and helped to add a stylish touch to a grim subject.

Because of Boyle's daily struggle with crack, the documentary, which has been submitted to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, starts out as one thing and ends up being another. That's not to say, however, that it is any less hard-hitting, and executive producer Boyer is satisfied with the result.

'Without trying to sound wishy-washy, we wanted to make a film that could help someone and make a difference. I think we have,' Boyer said.