Utopia Media Buys Documentary ‘Dope Is Death’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Brent Lang
·2 min read

Utopia has acquired “Dope Is Death,” a look at the establishment of an unconventional detoxification program in the Bronx in the early 1970s to deal with the heroin epidemic.

The sale took place in advance of the film’s screening in November at DOC NYC. Mia Donovan, who previously helmed “Inside Lara Roxx” and “Deprogrammed,” directed the film.

“Dope Is Death” centers on Dr. Mutulu Shakur, stepfather of Tupac Shakur, and a coalition of left-wing activists from the Young Lords and Black Panthers, who combined community health with radical politics to create Lincoln Detox, the first acupuncture detoxification program in America.

The film is slated to premiere on Vice World News — a new series presented by Vice co-founder Suroosh Alvi — before releasing digitally across VOD platforms.

“I feel so honoured to share this story of how community activists confronted the war on drugs with acupuncture and political education,” Donovan said. “‘Dope Is Death’ is the result of years of research and collaboration with freedom fighters who have put their lives on the line to help heal their communities. I hope this documentary will help to cement their roles, particularly, Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s role, in advocating for and spreading the practice of acupuncture in America.”

Shakur was later sentenced to 60 years in prison for his involvement in a lethal 1981 heist of a Brinks armored truck. He has repeatedly been denied parole, despite having several health issues, including being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

“‘Dope Is Death’ manages to weave multiple stories into one compelling narrative,” said Danielle DiGiacomo, Utopia’s head of content. “It revisits a period in New York’s history when a group of dedicated activists created an innovative community health program to combat the systemic racism surrounding the city’s heroin epidemic. Mia has created an insightful film that touches upon a number of issues that resonate just as deeply today, most notably the criminal injustice of Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s 60-year prison sentence.”

Utopia Media’s upcoming slate includes fashion documentary “House of Cardin,” Alzheimer’s research documentary “Turning Point,” and Errol Morris’ documentary on Steve Bannon, “American Dharma.” “Dope Is Death” was produced by Bob Moore with executive producers Mila Aung-Thwin and Daniel Cross. Utopia retains rights worldwide, with the exception of Canada. The deal was negotiated by Moore and Jason Ishikawa of Cinetic on behalf of the filmmakers and Danielle DiGiacomo for Utopia.

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