According to the New York Times, 59,000 people died from drugs in 2016, 19 percent more than in 2015, the largest increase ever recorded. Fueling this death count is a public health crisis – thousands of people addicted to painkillers, opioids, who then turn to cheaper heroin when their pills run out. That heroin, coming in through Mexico from China, often includes fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
In February, 2014, Linda Lajterman’s son, Danny, died after he used heroin that was laced with fentanyl. Hoping to prevent other families from experiencing such tragedy, Linda wrote Life After You: What Your Death from Drugs Leaves Behind. (Read the interview with Linda.) The book is the inspiration for a feature film, 19 Daniel Highway, that will be shot in New Jersey, where the Lajtermans live, in 2018. While Linda’s book was the starting point, the film will take in many sides of this epidemic. Those involved with the film hope that 19 Daniel Highway will educate young people and their parents to the dangers of opioids and heroin.
The film will focus on a family dealing with their son’s addiction to heroin. David Zayas, best known as Angel Batista on the Golden Globe nominated psychological drama, Dexter, will star as the father, Fredy. Florencia Lozano, who can be seen in Netflix’s Narcos, will play the mother, Valentina. Judy Reyes, who currently stars in TNT’s Claws and Lifetime’s Devious Maids, will play a neighbor, Marlene. The film will be directed by George Valencia, who has won numerous awards for his films which include Glow Ropes and Moment to Moment.
Producers for the film include: Sandra Avila, who has worked in TV development for Showtime Networks and has also produced films for HBO and Lifetime; Brian Long, formerly managing director for New York’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theater who recently completed a film with Karen Allen; and Charlene Giannetti, Woman Around Town’s editor whose company, WAT-AGE Publishing, published Linda’s book.
“More than 140 people die each day from this epidemic,” says Giannetti. “And while the White House has declared this drug crisis a national emergency, it’s clear that more people need to get involved. Our hope is that this film will reach a wide audience and create a dialogue among those who can help – not only government officials, but educators, drug counselors, and health care professionals. Most of all, we want to get the word out to young people and their parents who need to remain vigilant.”
19 Daniel Highway will be submitted to film festivals where the stars and producers will appear on panels to talk about their involvement and why they are so passionate about this project. Virtually no one has been left untouched by these tragedies and those stories will be shared. Also invited onto these panels will be many experts knowledgeable about drugs and addiction who will be able to answer questions.
19 Daniel Highway is a not-for-profit project supported by The Film Collaborative. All donations made towards the film are fully tax deductible. The money raised will be used for pre-production, production, submissions into film festivals, marketing, and travel. To go to the Film Collaborative page, click here.