The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 10, 2013


Documentary serving as motivation for many to address the drug scourge

— There’s nothing like a little adversity, controversy or an outsider taking a perceived swipe at a community to get its citizens rankled.

It can spark a rallying point for a common cause, or even a dose of organization within ranks that needed a focal point.

That’s what we hope the film “Oxyana” does for the citizens of Oceana.

Many residents of the small town in Wyoming County are riled up because of the documentary, which was filmed last summer and debuted recently at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

They say that the film is an exaggerated portrayal of Oceana.

But the good news is that concerned Oceana citizens are planning a town hall meeting May 31 at 6 p.m. in the Oceana Middle School auditorium with a two-pronged agenda:

n “To address the misconceptions that the documentary have portrayed in the press about the town of Oceana. We want to give our residents a chance to showcase themselves and the town and give the region, and possibly even the country, a different look at what the real Oceana is,” said one resident.

n And ... “to bring community leaders, law enforcement and local residents together to help find solutions to the ever-growing drug problem.”

The resident added: “We’re not naive. We know there’s a drug problem in central Appalachia, but we also know the problem’s not just Oceana.”

That’s why we feel, as another resident put it on a Facebook post, that this film may be a “blessing in disguise.”

If it gets citizens involved in helping put an end to the growing drug and crime culture, it will benefit Wyoming County for many generations to come. They are correct. The problem is not exclusive to Oceana. Drugs are problematic for all of southern West Virginia, and an epidemic for the United States.

It’s unfortunate that Oceana has become a “poster child” for this ugly plague through the distribution of this recent film. But “art” (which is what movies are) is at its best when it causes the viewer to think, reflect, become emotional and get active.

Organizers say that they expect a “ton of ideas” to come from the town hall meeting. That’s great.

We believe that it will be a productive start to putting a dent in a problem that has ruined many lives and caused countless deaths.

“Oxyana” will not hurt tourism in Wyoming County. It may have hurt some pride and caused some bruises. But get over that and continue to rally toward a greater goal. Use it for something positive.

And “Oxyana” will no longer be a moniker deemed appropriate for your town by anyone, not even a filmmaker.

Perhaps an “Oxyana 2” could be based on the many positives that could come from these meetings.

We’ll purchase that ticket.