I have a friend who tells me that you cry when the truth touches your heart. If he’s right (and I believe he is), then there’s a whole lot of truth in local director Sam Tarplin’s new documentary film, “What Happened Here: The Untold Story of Addiction on Cape Cod,” because I was wiping tears from my cheek just watching the trailer.
The film, which debuts Friday, September 26, in a public premiere at Cape Cod Community College, is a stark and powerful look at the brutal and nasty grip that the scourge of addiction currently holds on our peninsula. Through interviews with addicts in recovery, community leaders, law enforcement officials, and the faith community, Sam paints a very realistic picture of the impacts of substance abuse—and the hope provided by recovery—in our community. It presents, in the words, emotions, and personal stories of our own friends and neighbors, the impacts of drug and alcohol abuse in Falmouth and beyond. As the title suggests, the film simply tells us what has happened here, in the words of the people to whom it happened.
The documentary will also be screened on Sunday, September 28, at 3 PM at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation on Sandwich Road.
The issue is personal to Tarplin, a Falmouthite and recovering addict himself. He began work on this project after only 90 days of being substance free, fulfilling a strong desire to “get the dialogue going” to raise awareness of the deadly consequences of addiction on Cape Cod—and to speak to a population that struggles to understand it and the people it kills. Those who are in recovery will tell you that simply getting to work each day, maintaining personal and spiritual fitness, and staying sober a day at a time are tough enough after 90 days. Writing, directing, and raising funds to produce a documentary film on top of all that has been an enormous and arduous task, but Sam felt compelled to embark on this creative journey to give back to the community that has “helped, stressed, and blessed” him—before and after his first day of living substance free.
He speaks matter-of-factly, but with a kindness and understanding that belie his young age, for this 20-something filmmaker has seen much pain and suffering. After muddling through high school in Falmouth, Sam, seeking some direction and guidance for a life already struggling for purpose, joined the Israeli Army. After returning to Falmouth from a difficult and war-torn experience, Sam’s drug and alcohol abuse took off. During his active addiction, Sam saw a side—a very real and prevalent side—of Falmouth and Cape Cod that is hidden from view. The desperation, desolation, and bleakness of so many of our young people debilitated by active addiction are real, and Sam is able to tell their stories in some of their own words.
When he was able to turn the page and begin to live a sober life, Sam wanted to have a conversation, a conversation between a sober Sam and his hometown. He made it clear when I chatted with him about this project that it is not an expose on the societal impacts of addiction. It is not a criticism of society’s approach to addiction. It is a simple and genuine attempt to bring his conversation to the people—his people—the people of our community. “This started as a local piece and is ending as one,” noted this able and talented young man, so full of hope for a meaningful dialogue and so full of passion for his meaningful purpose. He explained that the project came alive in planning and production meetings in places like the Falmouth Public Library and Coffee Obsession. Its images play out real stories of pain and hope in living rooms, offices and churches from Waquoit to West Falmouth, and it will soon be available in those same venues so that Sam’s conversation with his beloved community can continue.
September is National Recovery Month. Sam Tarplin is recognizing that designation by having a conversation with his community. Won’t you join the conversation?