Slaying The Dragon Documentary Review Essays

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Produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chasing the Dragon is a wrenching portrait of the escalating opioid epidemic told through the frank testimonies of young addicts and their family members.

Over 46000 people die of a drug overdose every year, and many of these fatalities result from opioid abuse. The crisis is particularly prominent in younger communities where a lack of drug education and a desire for experimentation increasingly harbors disastrous and lethal consequences.

The recovering addicts profiled in the film come from good homes and loving families. For many of these heartbreaking subjects, the descent into drug addiction began with the use of marijuana. Their graduation to opioids may have seemed innocuous at the outset; after all, these little pills are often prescribed by doctors and are stored in family medicine cabinets. But that first instance of misuse quickly evolved into a full-fledged addiction from which they were powerless to escape. In an attempt to replicate their initial high, they began to inject more potent opioids intravenously. Addiction quickly became a never-ending cycle that dominated every moment of their lives.

The film's subjects share a myriad of horrific experiences. One young woman recalls a crack house she shared with other drug users. When they stepped into the bathroom and discovered a dead body in a tub, they quickly sought another room where they could get their fix. Another addict speaks of her challenges in maintaining a 40-pill-a-day habit. A new mother admits to getting hooked when her daughter was just seven months old.

Once they're in the throes of their disease, family relationships and future goals take a back seat. Many of them resort to theft, assault, and prostitution in order to maintain their destructive lifestyle.

The addicts profiled in the film are now in recovery. Some of them are struggling to reclaim stable lives with their families. Others speak from behind bars. Freed from the clouds of self-deception brought on by their addictions, their reflections are painfully candid and instructive.

Chasing the Dragon is a wrenching, but crucial viewing experience, particularly for young people who must contend with mounting peer pressures on a daily basis.

Directed by: James Barrett, Thomas Benca

About

Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded is the 2011 sequel to the 1988 documentary, Slaying the Dragon, and takes on the task of analyzing the contemporary status of popular representations of Asian women in the years since the original documentary was produced. Both films were created by Asian Women United, an organization founded by director and producer Elaine Kim. The 2011 film pays particularly close attention to the emergence of Asian American male filmmakers and their own conflicted portrayals of Asian women.

Discussion

Professor Robin Kelley says that over the past few decades, “if anything, you see a browning of faces but a continuing whitening of character.” What is the significance of this argument to you? Can you draw from any examples in your experience with the media to support or contest this statement?

How might the rising prominence of Asian American men in cinema play into this trend as it pertains to representations of Asian American women?

Critique

Although the 1988 film was produced on a budget of $300,000 (roughly equivalent to $800,000 today) the 30-minute sequel had a budget of only $15,000. According to Kim, the organization couldn’t get funding for the sequel because “race and representation of Asian women is kind of an old idea.”

Shortly before its release at the San Francisco International Asian American Film festival, Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded in 2011 drew protest from six Asian American filmmakers whose works were excerpted in the documentary. These filmmakers argued that the clips were used without their permission, and although Kim was able to retain the majority of the footage under fair use guidelines, she ultimately withdrew one excerpt from the film The People I’ve Slept With by director Quentin Lee, an Asian American who argued that Kim’s documentary “was just a little horrifying to the filmmakers who own the rights to their work.”

News & DocumentaryAsian/Pacific IslanderRace & Ethnicity

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