“Meth” by Sierra Christman

Crystal methamphetamine. It’s not just an addictive drug; “It’s money, it’s trouble, it’s the devil, basically,” claims one of director Todd Ahlberg’s interviewees in his eye-opening documentary titled “Meth.” The film made its Santa Barbara debut at the OUTrageous! Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 5 to a small but supportive audience, and was immediately followed by an emotional and thought-provoking panel discussion consisting of rehabilitated addicts, a rehab treatment specialist and an interviewee from the film.

Spectators were plunged head-first into the underground culture revolving around a drug that leaves users wanting more, even after intense rehabilitation. If anything, “Meth” is remarkable in its intensity, which lasts from the first scenes of explicit drug use to the last scenes of one addict’s tragic decline. Interviewees recount their histories with meth, from their first experiences through their rehabilitation, and while a feeling of hope is palpable, you are never far from the harsh reality of perpetual addiction. Ahlberg stocks his cast with users, ex-users, dealers and users’ family members, who all recount similar tales of the link between crystal meth and homosexuality – a subculture within gay culture that one subject terms “a culture of irresponsibility.” Heart-wrenching to the point that it is at times difficult to watch, this movie sheds light on the important issues surrounding meth usage from every angle. If the film shocks you with its unapologetic honesty and brutal truth about the relationship between the homosexual community and this addictive drug, then it has served its purpose. Though attention-holding to the last scene, “Meth” is clearly a film that seeks to inform and educate rather than entertain.

“A Love to Hide” by Sierra Christman

If you’ve relied on “Schindler’s List” and The Diary of Anne Frank as your primary Holocaust texts, you have missed out on learning about something equally tragic. An estimated 15,000 gay men lost their lives in concentration camps during World War II, a fact that director Christian Faure chronicles in his film, “A Love to Hide.” This French movie, subtitled in English, begins with Sara, a young Jewish woman who is seeking sanctuary in the home of her longtime friend, Jean – or rather, Jean’s lover, Philippe. The young gay couple risks their lives to help and hide their friend, and all goes well until the arrival of Jean’s younger brother, Jacques. In true love triangle form, Jacques falls in love with Sara and, in a rash attempt to win her affections, commits an unspeakable act that eventually leads the entire cast down a tragic path.

Faure artfully weaves genuine and timeless issues of tolerance, same-sex love and racism into a backdrop of historical fiction, and the result is a film that simultaneously shocks you, tugs at your heartstrings and pleases you. Beautifully acted and filmed, “A Love to Hide” is an epic, dramatic tale punctuated by factual information and historical truth. This film, a brilliant addition to the repertoire of intelligent and magnificent movies at the OUTrageous! Film Festival, is ground-breaking in that it speaks volumes about how far the gay and lesbian community has come in a few decades. Though the film does weigh heavy on the soul, it is a wonderful and powerful story of the persistence of hope and the strength of love of all kinds.