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Matthew Heineman ‘05’s “The Trade”

Matthew Heineman ‘05 (who was nominated for an Oscar for his documentary Cartel Land) has a five-part series on Showtime that deals with the opioid epidemic. Watch the trailer:

Listen to an interview with Matt:

Heineman is a thoughtful guy, as evidenced by an extensive interview in Salon:

The extreme closeness of Heineman’s work is his calling card, and as anxiety-provoking and crazy as it looks, when he and his fellow producers insert themselves into these very different lives and situations, it serves to humanize the opioid epidemic in ways headline news cannot.

But when asked about how he’s able to coax interviews out of dangerous thugs with little regard for human life and walk away unscathed, Heineman simply credits the extensive contacts he and his team have cultivated over the years.

People like John, he explained, take part in “The Trade” for a reason. “They believe that by showing what this drug has done to them, what this drug has done to their family, what this drug has done [to the] community, that perhaps they can help thousands of others who are going through similar situations.

“That’s the common denominator of why people take part in documentaries, especially people who are in such dire straits. They want to be heard,” he added. “They want to be listened to so that people can understand what they’re going through and also so that hopefully with other people who are going through similar situations, it can help them.”…

“My job and my goal with this series was to really humanize the issue, to allow you to have a visceral, experiential journey into the lives that are affected, that are trapped in this horrible cycle of addiction, this horrible disease,” Heineman said. “To allow people that might not necessarily engage with the topic to have an entry point and a way to empathize and understand what is happening.”…

Heineman added that documentaries are the best way to cover sprawling stories like this. “As traditional media is obviously being disrupted, as there’s less money invested in long form investigative journalism, as foreign bureaus are shrinking or being eliminated, I think we are going to rely more and more on documentary filmmakers and citizen journalists to shine light in dark corners of the world.”

Addendum: The Vineyard Gazette offers a thorough profile of Matt and The Trade.


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