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Documentary follows struggles of an addict

by Mizuho Aoki

Tokyo-based U.S. filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash’s debut feature documentary will be shown for the first time in Japan on Sunday at Nakano Zero.

Winner of the 2006 Prix du Canton Vaud (newcomers award) at Visions du Reel in Nyon, Switzerland, “the ballad of vicki and jake” follows nine months in the lives of single mother Vicki who struggles with drug addiction and her 11-year-old son, Jake, while living on the edge of society in Bristol, Western England.

The director met his subjects on the streets when he was a university student.

The two were homeless at that time and Vicki, who says she began experimenting with drugs when she was a teen, was recovering from addiction and hoping to take control of her life to raise her son.

The film opens with mother and son moving to a council house, which Vicki referred to as “winning a lottery.” Envisioned to record the change in Vicki and Jake’s life after they were given the house, Ash and cameraman Ken Kwek began rolling. Things did not go the way they expected.

The camera captures Vicki and Jake’s intimate relationship — and the director’s frustration with observing Vicki’s life.

The film has been screened in seven countries, including Germany and Denmark, and broadcast on public television in Canada and on satellite TV in New Zealand.

The director is currently editing a followup documentary on Jake’s life after “the ballad.” Filmed for three years from 2006, the new feature is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

A screening of “the ballad of vicki and jake” will be held Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) at Nakano Zero. The theater is an eight-minute-walk from the South Exit of Nakano Station. The film will be subtitled in both English and Japanese. A question session with director Ian Thomas Ash will be held after the screening. Tickets are ¥1,200.