Crank: Darkness on the Edge of Town
A Tennessee town’s struggle with methamphetamine mirrors a nationwide epidemic
Premiering the month of January on American Public Television
(Cookeville, Tennesse)—The central nervous system stimulant methamphetamine is as addictive as any known drug; more drug users on earth now choose meth over cocaine and/or heroin. The mid-1990’s introduction of clandestine meth labs into rural Appalachian communities blindsided authorities as home meth labs spread like a deadly virus. Narrated by singer/actor Rita Coolidge, CRANK: Darkness on the Edge of Town offers an anatomy of one Tennessee town’s waking nightmare as a mirror to America’s struggle with methamphetamine.
The film measures meth’s devastation utilizing police raid video, TV footage and interviews with experts from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s El Paso Intelligence Center, the Vanderbilt Burn Clinic, UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Program, and the National Jewish Medical Center. Eye-opening, first-hand accounts of first responders, local law enforcement, ER physicians, jailhouse dentists, and truly and emotive interviews with addicts, their parents and their children illustrate the drug’s destruction.
The home lab recipe ingredients for meth, or “crank,” include iodine, lye, engine starter, drain cleaner, battery acid—smoked, snorted, and injected. Severe addiction, aggravated crimes, disfigured burn victims, neglected children, and toxified properties make the turbulent wake of meth. By 2004 Tennessee accounted for 75 perscent of all meth labs busted in the southeastern U.S. That year authorities removed over 700 Tennessee children from their parents in meth-related incidents. The Boston Globe, ABC Nightly News, NBC World News Tonight and CNN Reports and others named the Upper Cumberland Mountain area as a hot spot for home meth manufacture.
The small town of Cookeville, Tennesee (pop. 25,000) was only the third municipality in the U.S. to pass a local ordinance to control the sale of meth’s precursor cold medicines. Witnessing a change for the better, citizens then launched a three-year fight against retail drug lobbyists and complacent lawmakers to enact similar state laws and slow meth’s diabolic spread. The ripple effect of their effort is felt even today, evident in the recently passed national precursor law.
As educational as it is compelling, CRANK: Darkness on the Edge of Town takes a hard look at a sobering subject. Americans believing that meth has not yet affected their community are probably wrong; for those who are still right, it’s coming. In some communities meth has been rampant for so long it is not considered epidemic, but endemic—like beer and cigarettes.
Until we raise a generation of kids uninterested in meth, the problem will haunt us. As Cookeville’s Police Chief Terry said, “Sure, meth is a police problem… but it’s a social issue.” In the program Dr. Sullivan Smith sums up this complex issue. “We will never arrest our way out of methamphetamine. Never. Treatment is the key. Education is the key. Precursor limitation is the key.”
Presented by WCTE Upper Cumberland Public Television (PBS), CRANK: Darkness on the Edge of Town is a co-production of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Jarrell’s production company, Two Six, Inc. Serving as Project Director is WCTE General Manager Becky Magura. Executive Producer for ITVS is Sally Jo Fifer. Program underwriters include The Memorial Foundation, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Companion Financial Group.
About the Filmmaker Methamphetamine is a familiar topic to independent producer/director Todd Jarrell. His production for Nashville’s WKRN-TV (ABC), Meth In Tennessee, was nominated for the 2006 National EMMY in Community Service. Jarrell’s 2004 public radio series, In Meth’s Grip, garnered three national awards and was cited by the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. as the “most comprehensive, listen-able, and eye-opening coverage of the meth problem we have heard to date.”
About WCTE Located on the campus of Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, WCTE serves as an invaluable asset to Tennessee’s central mountain region. Founded in 1978 as a community-based, educational, public communications resource, WCTE’s core mission is community outreach, as the station outputs 200+ hours of original programming annually with a full-time staff of 12. The range of WCTE’s offerings to the national pubic television audience include Robin Esther’s Secret Box examining child abuse, the annual bluegrass performance highlights of the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree, and Tree Safari: A Sculptural Journey, following the artistic process of famed wood sculptor Brad Sells and filmed in part in the South African bush.
About Independent Television Service (ITVS) Celebrating its 16th anniversary, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy® Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting itvs.org. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.
About American Public Television For 46 years, American Public Television (APT) has been a prime source of programming for the nation’s public television stations. APT distributes more than 300 new program titles per year and has 10,000 hours of programming in its library. It is responsible for many public television milestones including the first HD series and the 2006 launch of the Create™ channel featuring the best of public television's lifestyle programming. APT is known for its leadership in identifying innovative, worthwhile and viewer-friendly programming. It has established a tradition of providing public television stations with program choices that strengthen and customize their schedules, such as JFK: Breaking the News, Battlefield Britain, Globe Trekker, Rick Steves' Europe, Great Museums, Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way, America's Test Kitchen From Cook’s Illustrated, Broadway: The Golden Age, Lidia's Family Table, California Dreamin’ – The Songs of The Mamas & the Papas, Rosemary and Thyme, P. Allen Smith's Garden Home, The Big Comfy Couch, Monarchy With David Starkey, and other prominent documentaries, dramatic series, how-to programs and classic movies. For more information about APT's programs and services, visit APTonline.org.
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