Our American Family is a documentary about one family’s struggle with opioid addiction.
Production began three and half years ago in Ardmore, a suburb of Philadelphia. It was part of the 30th Philadelphia Film Festival from October 20th through the 31st, 2021.
Hallee Adelman directed Our American Family along with Sean King O’Grady. I talked to Hallee after I saw the film. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, mostly in Huntington Valley. It is her first film.
Addiction touches so many families around the world. Halley believed this was an important story to tell.
There is no narration giving facts and figures as typical documentaries do. This is more like a reality show, with the dialogue between the family members telling the story. In the beginning of the film, there is a little bit of narration by the mother, Linda, to introduce the story.
One of the things that impressed me was how the director was able to capture the essence of each family member. Each person seemed relaxed in their conversation despite the cameras and lights in the room.
The director attributed that to her co-director Sean King O’Grady, the cinematographer Seamus Tierney and the rest of the team. They showed up with a lot of care and respect for the family. “I think the family knew they weren’t being judged when we were all working together. They were fiercely determined to show what this looks like for families. They were so exhausted from the stigma that society puts on them and other families that they just wanted something real,” Hallee said.
The film is successful in portraying how it is for a middle-class family living on the Main Line to grapple with this disease. Some dismal scenes of the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia where homeless drug addicts lay on the sidewalk were hard to see. And seeing the scenes between the family, sitting at the dinner table talking about their problems was not easy either. In our culture, one way to deal with addiction is denial. Don’t look at it or talk about it. This film takes that leap, and it is successful in its honesty.
This family has made themselves completely vulnerable by displaying their story to the world. They are looking at addiction in the face. They are talking about it, and they are trying to keep it from bringing them down. By honestly showing their predicament in life, they will surely help many others who may be experiencing the same.
After one of the screenings at the PFF, four of the family members fielded comments and questions from the audience. Quite a few in the audience said “Thank you” to the family for stepping forward, for being brave, and further, one said, “I needed this.”
The film already showed at the Woodstock Film Festival where it won the Audience Award. What’s next? The film is sponsoring The Real Recovery Film Festival in November. They are also working with Penn Medicine with their research about addiction, and they hope to appear in other film festivals in 2022.
Stay tuned to how you might be able to see Our American Family either in theaters or streaming.
For my overview of the 30th Philadelphia Film Festival, go here.