My friend Silas had been working with Mozambican intravenous drug users for a year when I met him. The idea for the movie came about as part of a study that an American group wanted to do. Funding fell through for them, but we decided to go through with the project anyway, for our own purposes. What those purposes were consistently made me question what we were doing. In fact, for the first two weeks working with this footage, we were developing a movie about the process and ethical problems of making a movie about heroin users in Mozambique. It included Silas’s own story as a recovering addict as we attempted to explain our blunderings through this world of desperation. We wanted to tell a story of mutual advantage seeking on the parts of the drug users and ourselves.

Every day as we showed up at the crack house they sought money, movie fame, gifts, whatever. And every day we wanted cool footage to show all our friends back home what a crazy adventure we were on. In the end that story – the story of us making the movie – was overshadowed by the real story. Even my own hesitations at adding to the overflowing pot of African desperation cinema were brushed aside by Charlie, the main character of the film.

     All the users (our group of friends was made of five guys – Charlie, Mais Velho, Manusho, Mirco and Bobby) said they wanted to quit if only; if only they could get a job or if only they had lots of money at one time – enough to start a new life. Charlie said so too but he didn’t put on any airs about his physical and psychological needs. He seemed to feel that he wasn’t ready, that his time to quit was on the horizon and he was waiting for some passion within himself to show up. In ways that the others talked to us about how much better they were than other addicts, more civilized, less violent, Charlie talked about how he thought about his family – his wife and his parents. There was nothing romantic about his relationship with heroin. He made very clear that there was nothing interesting about his life. The others – especially the older guys (represented by Mais Velho in the movie)– still put forward this idea that drugs were cool. They talked about how much they did each day as a way of one-upping each other. Mais Velho commanded respect by being the one who injected, whose needs for drugs were greater than the others. On our last day with them, when Silas accused Mais Velho of buying heroin with money from his stolen iPhone, Mais Velho’s response was, ‘Do you know how much heroin I do everyday?’ As though to rely on something like petty theft to satisfy his addiction was so far beneath him. And the others came forward in his defense.

     Yes, we were robbed. Our relationship with the drug users fluctuated daily between one of friendship and one of distrust. Toward the end it got worse. The older guys were the most aggressive. One day as they were smoking crack and we were trying to capture more of Silas’s interactions with the users things came to a breaking point. After Manusho and Mais Velho smoked something clicked inside them both and Manusho told me to delete the footage, all of it. I asked why and he said that we were talking about bringing people from the government to their crack house and what was that all about? I was confused because I had never interacted with someone that was being one hundred percent delusional. I got the sense that I was talking to someone who was having a waking nightmare. Silas left the room and I deleted the footage and said that’s enough. My bags were in the back of the house, and I hurriedly packed up, worrying Silas had left, worrying for the first time they might try to steal my camera. Manusho yelled after us to delete everything, delete all of it! They never wanted to see us again. My reason eventually took over as I calmed down and while Silas was outside I knew we couldn’t leave on these terms. I sat down and tried to figure out what they were talking about as their mania faded. Apparently they mistook some comments we made earlier.
It was a misunderstanding. The old guys calmed down. They apologized for making me delete the footage.
Everything was alright but we were humbled. We were not friends with these guys.

It was amidst this backdrop that we always tried to capture Charlie’s story. Charlie was still very present as compared to the older guys and he had a way of articulating his story and his feelings that set him apart from the younger guys too. We knew he liked working with us. More often than not, however, we had to manipulate our ways around his friends. In a way that his friends did not, Charlie seemed to understand that this film could possibly help him in the future. While Mais Velho by the end would just say, ‘I don’t want filming, I just want money,’ Charlie would always be willing to talk about his day. It made me wonder if this filmactually could help him. As Silas says in our unmade sequel to this movie, the

CDC and USAID don’t recognize drug use in Mozambique as a problem, even though it is highly connected to HIV/AIDS, the agencies’ primary concern. Treatment centers don’t exist in Nampula and Global Health Communications (GHC), the non profit outreach center that attempts to work these types of drug users is under funded and under resourced to face a drug problem of the magnitude the movie’s subjects face. In the end, I wouldn’t say that this film could help them as a community, but I believed Charlie when he told us that our experience together and his conversations with Silas had sparked a new kind of desire for change within him and I thought well maybe this movie actually could help him.

      By the end our relationship with Mais Velho, the leader of the men, was getting dangerously unstable. It was pretty clear that he had at least orchestrated the theft of Silas’s iPhone and some of my money. On the day Charlie sold his coat, I actually heard him – through the wireless microphone on Charlie’s lapel – talking about stealing my camera bags. His intimate relationship with one of the younger guys was becoming disturbingly apparent and my personal dislike for him was starting to influence how he was going to be portrayed in the movie. I tried to tell him as much and his response was, ‘that’s why you should be paying me more money.’ The guy was gone. His priorities were so out of whack that he didn’t care in the least about that. Our last day arguing with everyone about Silas’s missing phone was a sad and blatant display of manipulation and lies, captained by Mais Velho. In the end we didn’t know who to trust, not even Charlie. After we finished our interview with him, where he said ‘all the right things’ (Silas, unmade sequel) Charlie sold the shirt off his back to get high. I couldn’t reasonably expect him to quit his habits at that moment but it was a stark reminder of the apparent truths in words vs. actions. It got me thinking. We left them as Mais Velho was simultaneously telling Silas he would find the phone and shooting up, without saying if we were coming back. The conflicted look on Charlie’s face as I looked back walking out the door remains one of the saddest single sights I’ve ever seen. Silas is gone now. I brought the movie to Charlie as a sort of reminder of the things he’s said. Whether they’re true or not is for him to decide.


Meu amigo Silas já estava a trabalahr com a communidade de usuários de drogas mais de um ano quando conheci a ele. A ideâ de fazer essa filme começou como uma parte de um estudo dum grupo Americano. O dinheiro nuncha chegou deste grupo mais Eu e Silas decidimos a fazer a filme de qualquer maneira, pelas nossas proprias intenções. Essas intenções ainda não sei bem o que eram. Na verdade, as primeiras duas semanas de trabalahar com essa filmagem, estavamos desenvolvendo uma filme sobre o processo e problemas éticas de fazer uma filme sobre usuários de heroína em Moçambique. Incluido foi a propria história de Silas como uma pessoa em recuperação enquanto nós tentavamos a explicar a nossas pisadas neste mundo de desperação. Queriamos contar uma história de aproveitamento mutual na parte de nós e os usuários também. Todos os dias quando chegamos na boca eles pediram dinheiro, queriam de ser famosos, presentes, qualquer coisinha. E todo dia nos queriamos filmagem legal para mostrar todos nossos amigos nos Estados Unidos e mostrar a nossa aventura. No fim essa historia – a história atrás de machina – ficou em baixo da história mais importante. Até minhas hesitações de contribuir a panela cheia de cinema e imagens de Africa em sofrimento ficou em baixo de Charlie, a personagem principal da filme.

Todos os usuários (Charlie, Mais Velho, Manusho, Mirco and Bobby) dizeram que queriam deixar de usar só que. ‘Só que não tenho dinheiro bastante para começar uma nova vida’. Charlie também falou assim mais ele não finjia nada sobre as suas desejas a vicias psicologicas e fisicas. Parecia que ele sintiu que não estava pronto parar, estava a esperar a paixão de parar ainda. Os outros falavam quanto melhor eram do que outros viciados, mais civilizados, menos violente. Charlie falou sobre a sua familia – a sua mulher e os pais. Não falou romantica sobre a sua relacionamento com heroína. Os outros, especialmente o Mais Velho ainda acreditavam que drogas são uma coisa legal e interessante. Falavam quanto cada usava cada dia para nos impressionar e um outro. Em nosso ultimo dia com eles, enquanto Silas accusou Mais Velho de comprar heroína com o dinheiro de iPhone roubada de  Silas, a responta de Mais Velho foi, ‘Você sabe quanto eu uso todo dia?” Como ele usou tantou que roubadas pequenas nem chegaria perto de sustentar o seu vicio. E os outros lhe defendou.

Sim, fomos roubadas. Nosso relacionamento com os usuários mudava todo dia de amigos para inimigos. Ao mais perto do fim, o pior a situação ficava. Os velhos eram mais aggresivo. Um dia quando estavam fumando crack e estavamos tentando capturar mais interações de Silas com o grupo tudo chegava num ponto muito quente.  Depois de Manusho e Mais Velho fuvama alguma coisa mudou dentre deles and Manusho me mandava apagar a filmagem, tudo. Perguntei porque e ele disse que estavamos falando sobre levando pov do governo para a sua boca e para que isso? Me confundi porque nunca tinha interagida com uma pessoa de cem por cento delusão. Me senti que falei com alguem dentro dum pesadelo acordado. Silas saiu da sala e eu apagei a filmagem e disse que já chegava. Minhas pastas estavam atrás e Silas já saiu, começei me preoccupar que eles iam tentar roubar a minha machina. Manusho gritou as nossas costas, “apague lá apague tudo!” Eles nunca queriam nos ver de nos ver de novo. Eventualmente a minha razão voltou e fique calma enquanto Silas ficava for a e sabia que não podiamos nos partir assim. Eu me sentei e tentou entender de que eles estavam falando enquanto a sua mania desceu. Os velhos ficavam calma. Pediam desculpas até para me mandar apagar a filmagem. Tudo deu certo mais nos sabiamos agora que não estavamos amigos com essas pessoas.

Assim sempre tentava capturar a historía de Charlie. Charlie sempre foi muito presente comparado com os outras e sabia falar sobre os seus sentimentos melhor do que todos os outros. Sabiamos que ele nos gostava. As vezes, no entanto, tinhamos que navigar sobre os seus amigos. Numa maneira que os outros não entendiam ,Charlie sabia o que estavmos a fazer. Mais Velho falou que não queria filmagem, so dinheiro. Charlie falaria sobre o dia dele. Me fez pensar se essa filme reallmente podia ajudar essas pessoas. Silas fale numa intrevista que o CDC e USAID não reconhece uso de drogas em Moçambique como um problema, ainda enquanta está ligada com HIV/SIDA, a preoccupação principal dessa agencias trabalho em Moçambique. Centros de tratamento não existem em Nampula and GHC – a ONG que trabalha com usuários não tem bastante dinheiro para enfrentar essa problema. No fim, não diria que essa filme pode ajudar a communidade mais acreditei Charlie quando ele disse que a nossa experiencia juntos e as suas conversas com Silas começava uma nova maneira de pensar e eu pensei que talvez a filme pode ajudar a ele.

No fim nosso relacionamento com Mais Velho, a líder, estava ficando mais e mais discomfortável. Foi claro que ele pelo menos orchestrava o roubo de iPHone de Silas and um pouco de meu dinheiro. No dia que Charlie vendeu o cassaco, I ouvi ele – atravês a microfone sem fio de Charlie – falando sobre a roubar minhas pastas. O seu relacionamento intimo com um dos jovems estava fincando muito estranho e meu próprio mal-gosto em relação dele começou a influenciar como ele ia sair na filme. Falei isso para ele e ele só falou “é por isso que você deve me pagar mais!” Ele estava muito perdido em drogas. As suas prioridades foram tão fora de realidade que não se importava nada sobre disso. Nosso último dia brigando com todo mundo sobre o iPhone de Silas foi uma triste acontecimento de manipulação e mentiras, dirigido pelo Mais Velho. Nem sabia se podiamos confiar em Charlie. Depois de terminamos a nossa intrevista com ele, enquanto ele falou “todas as coisas certas” (Silas) Charlie vendeu a sua própria camisa para fumar. Não podia esperara ele deixar o vício assim mesmo mais aquele momento ficou como uma lembrança das palavras contra ações. Começei a pensar. Saimos enquanto Mais Velho prometeu que ia achar o celular e também injetando heroína. Não dizemos se ia voltar ou não. O rosto de Charles enquanto olhei atraves a portão da sua casa fique comigo como uma das imagens mais tristes que já vi. Silas foi embora já. Dei o DVD para Charlie com meu endereço de email. Vai ficar como uma lembranças das suas promessas. Se são promessas de verdade ele pode decidir.