The Badlands


*** Trailer on request ***


Drug deaths in 2018 alone are creeping towards the US death toll in Vietnam over ten years. The damage has proportions of a plague. Let it grow at this rate and in ten years it will be taking more American lives than AIDS at its peak; than auto accidents, breast cancer, World War Two.  There’s a palpable near-panic at what can look like collective mass suicide. The president has declared it a state of emergency, yet the propagation of man-made drugs facilitated through the halls of a booming pharmaceutical industry has facilitated a new wave of synthetic drugs, leaving political and social movements stagnate in deference to conclusive action.  

America is now entering its 4th and potentially most catastrophic wave of the drug epidemic . In the 60s, GIs brought an opium habit directly from the saturated battle fields of southeast Asia. In the 80’s and 90’s our inner cities were ravaged by crack cocaine, followed by an opioid epidemic that we still find ourselves deeply mired in to this day. However, as the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia perfectly shows, the 4th wave of synthetics –namely fentanyl–will be America’s most damaging.

In 2016, the Pennsylvania drug-related overdose death rate was 36.5 per 100,000 people, more than twice the national average at 16.3 per 100,000 people.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is merely an embodiment of American post-industrial cities taking the full tour of growth and decay. A tour that spans the entire United States, and retains some of the highest rates of opioid abuse and dependency.

Philadelphia is special however, as its street level heroin tests at 98% purity, the highest purity in North America.  In order to find out why, we traveled to the most concentrated open air drug market in the US, North Philadelphia’s Kensington-Fairhill neighborhood, known by locals as; THE BADLANDS.

This project follows the transgression of money, drugs, and tragedy from the street level dealer, to the head of the DEA. The addict in the traphouse to the pill mill doctor in the strip mall. The overdosing suburban kid to the network of fentanyl importers.

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