High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell
High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell is a 1995 American documentary film directed by Richard Farrell, Maryann DeLeo and Jon Alpert. It was a co-production of HBO and DCTV, produced by Farrell, DeLeo, and Alpert. The documentary takes place about 30 miles northwest of Boston in the economically depressed former mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts.
While Lowell is generally known for its central role in the Industrial Revolution as the first planned textile town in the United States, the city had fallen on hard times since the mills left the city in the early 1920s. Wang Laboratories, a major employer in Lowell in the more prosperous 1980s, declared bankruptcy and virtually went out of business in the early 1990s. The Lowell of 1995 had a large percentage of the population unemployed or underemployed, in poverty, and unaffected by positive things in the city like the Lowell National Historical Park and The Lowell Folk Festival (established in 1990). Much of the film takes place in a lower-class section of the city's (Lower) Highlands neighborhood.
The documentary frames the lives of three addicts against this background; particularly their hopeless situations, while exploring them as human beings. The film reveals the lives behind addiction: their aspirations, why they do drugs and why they don't quit, etc. It interviews their families, friends, and members of the community, discussing how drugs have destroyed the lives of the addicts. Richard Farrell, one of the directors, writers, and producers, is a native Lowellian and a former addict; allowing the crew deep access to the city's drug scene.
The filmmakers follow around three people: Boo Boo, Brenda, and former professional boxer Dicky Eklund in their daily exploits to get high. Throughout the course of the documentary, Brenda, a prostitute, becomes pregnant and contemplates an abortion but has to "hook" to pay for the abortion. Whenever she earns enough money she blows it on drugs instead of getting the $395 abortion. The father could be her on-again off-again boyfriend Mike (who doesn't want you in his building) or the father may, in fact, be Boo Boo. Brenda also attempts detox rehab for the baby, but after talking to her parents decides to abort, then do detox, then to go back home. She loses the will to complete the program, as she had 6 times before. She ultimately goes missing which launches Boo Boo into a panic as he looks for her. The police become aware of her whereabouts, but are unable to tell Boo Boo per her wishes. Dicky, the older brother of "Irish" Micky Ward, is a boxer who had at one time fought Sugar Ray Leonard, losing by decision after 10 rounds and attempted to make a comeback. He tries to prevent his habit – and the crimes he commits to feed it – from destroying his life, but he can never stay clean for long and ends up arrested on multiple violent charges. While awaiting trial, his mother attempts to raise bail money with a benefit at the local VFW. The event develops into a fight between spectators and the $5,000 bail is not raised. Later, Boo Boo discovers he has HIV after Brenda had been missing for several months. He subsequently attempts to find honest work, joins a support group, and attempts to re-open contact with his family. He loses a job as a deliveryman at a donut shop when it is revealed he was driving with no license. The documentary ends with him discussing how he is the only member of the three still in Lowell and not in jail. In the closing credits, it is revealed that 6 months after filming, Boo Boo is still in Lowell with a $200 a day crack habit, Dicky was sentenced to 10–15 years in prison (he was paroled in 1999), and Brenda died of a drug overdose on October 25, 1995.
In popular culture
A fictionalized version of the documentary is featured in the 2010 feature film The Fighter, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. In the film, the documentary is titled Crack In America. Eklund, portrayed by Christian Bale, is shown smoking crack and being high throughout, telling his family that the HBO camera crew are filming him making a boxing comeback.