The Stairs’ tells the story of Marty, Greg and Roxanne, each of whom survived decades of street-involvement. Using their experiences to ease the paths of others, each performs social work in their old neighborhood, while struggling to maintain their newly-found stability. Told over five years, ‘The Stairs’ is a non-judgmental character study of life on society’s margins. Defying stereotypes through intimate portraits, its remarkable subjects are by turns surprising, funny, shocking and moving.
Director Hugh Gibson’s The Stairs evolved from his work creating educational videos for The Regent Park Community Health Centre and Street Health in Toronto. Shot over the course of five years, this unconventional documentary follows the lives of Marty, Greg, and Roxanne, all three former drug users who have transitioned to helping other drug users through harm-reduction methods.
As viewers, we are situated directly with the subjects as they weave between painful memories, moments of reflection, and their new direction, using their past experiences to help others in their community. The camera is never intrusive or suggestive, but rather functions as an observational and open space for the three characters to tell their personal accounts and experiences as former drug addicts. Incorporating candid, handheld camerawork, this documentary helps to create an intimate engagement with the three characters, using their stories as the driving force of the film.
Too often, society is uncomfortable when confronted with addiction and poverty. However, The Stairs provides space for the audience to engage with addiction in a very personal and intimate way. This gesture of empathy and understanding is an important practice as we continue to navigate such a complex and unequal world. The Stairs was the winner of The Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Canadian Film of 2016. Maryland Film Festival is proud to present its U.S. premiere. (Margaret Rorison)