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From Winchester to the big screen: ‘Methadone Mile’ debuts at Boston International Film Festival

In ‘Methadone Mile,’ Justina Valentine plays Missy, a recovering addict dealing with family struggles in a tough Boston neighborhood. Alongside her is Lenny Clarke as her father and Johnny Hickey as a central character. COURTESY PHOTO

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“Methadone Mile,” a new pilot episode that delves into the heart of Boston’s opioid crisis, made its debut at the Boston International Film Festival on April 14. The film, which has strong ties to the town of Winchester, was showcased during Session 9 of the festival at the Regent Theatre in Arlington.

Todd Rotondi produced the project and it is based on the experiences of his brother Andrew Rotondi, both Winchester natives.

“Methadone Mile” offers a gritty and realistic portrayal of the struggles faced by those caught in the throes of addiction. The film’s premiere at the Boston International Film Festival marks a significant milestone for the project, which has been in development for a couple years.

The town of Winchester has played a vital role in the production of “Methadone Mile,” with several locations and local businesses contributing to the film’s authenticity. Susan Cabana, owner of Nourish Your Soul in Winchester, provided catering for the cast and crew and allowed them to use her home as headquarters.

“I was excited to be able to, you know, supply some of the food during the shoot,” Cabana said. “I think it’s just an amazing story and something that we should all be aware of what’s happening right here in our backyard.”

The Cooperative Bank in Winchester also played a significant role in the production by allowing the filmmakers to shoot a bank robbery scene on their premises.

“I reached out to the bank’s vice president,” said Todd Rotondi. “And sure enough, a few days later, he’s like, ‘You know, Todd, I think they’re open to it.’”

In addition to these locations, several Winchester residents were involved in the production. Cabana’s daughter, a Winchester High School student, helped with wardrobe, while two young actors from the town played roles in the film.

“Methadone Mile” follows the story of Missy, played by Justina Valentine, a recovering addict navigating the complexities of her dysfunctional family while living in the shadow of “Methadone Mile” — a three-block radius in Boston where three methadone clinics, the Boston County Jail, and two homeless shelters are located. Lenny Clarke, a local legend, plays Missy's father in the film.

Andrew Rotondi, the original writer of “Methadone Mile,” drew inspiration from his time as a driver for people seeking treatment at methadone clinics.

“I started driving these people to the clinics for like two years,” he said. “These are real stories about real people. And it just came together beautifully.”

The film not only serves as a cautionary tale, but also aims to inspire viewers by shedding light on the realities of addiction.

“Every story you hear, which would be jaw-dropping, is 100% true,” Andrew Rotondi added. “And it’s just built-in by different characters.”

Johnny Hickey, the film’s co-writer and director, is no stranger to the subject matter. A former addict himself, Hickey has used his experiences to create films that tackle the opioid epidemic head-on.

“Close to 200 people die every day from fentanyl,” Hickey said. Overdoses are the “number one killer of people under the age of 50 in the United States.”

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