Provincetown Banner 10/28/2010, Page 1
‘Meth & Murder in P’town’ documentary screens for Halloween
By Rob Phelps
What if “The Blair Witch Project” were a true story?
Say those three student filmmakers in that faux documentary that still tingles spines after its release 12 years ago actually trekked into the deep, dark woods near Burkittesville, Md., where they really suffered a grizzly encounter with an evil witch. Wouldn’t their friends and families have a slightly different reaction to that creepy cult film than the rest of us who never knew the kids in the movie? Surely the community of Burkittesville’s interest too would be highly personal and their longing for a resolution str ong.
What if Burkittesville, Md. were Provincetown, Massachu-setts?
A real documentary has been made about a frightening true story that happened right here in town not so long ago around Halloween. It’s a story about two young men not so different from those naïve film students who never came out of the woods. And unlike “Blair Witch,” it isn’t just raw video but edited footage, shaped into a narrative, with thoughtful analysis that’s intended to offer some support to the community.
This film, “Meth & Murder in P’town: Isn’t that what poetry is all about?” is playing this Halloween weekend at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 30 and 31, at Whaler’s Wharf Cinema, 237 Commercial St. Tickets are $10 for the evening screening and $7 for the matinees. All proceeds will be divi ded among the Gay Men’s AIDS Prevention Project, The Provincetown Theater, and the Provincetown International Film Festival.
The two young men in this very real documentary were Provincetown year-rounders Nathan Miksch and Timothy Mc-Guire, whose journey into their own dark woods of drug addiction and sexual abuse ended in gruesome murder.
As revealed in the story, Miksch and McGuire were two lost souls who, as the late writer Norman Mailer points out in one of the film’s many interviews with locals, came to Provincetown to “find out what they’re really made of. People [often come here] who can’t quite find organized society agreeable enough to keep going. They want to search out the possibility of being themselves, whoever that self is.”
For Miksch and McGuire, the role of the evil witch was played by crystal methamphetamine, which, a s shown in the movie, gave them a strong, sudden burst of invincibility — an irresistible hallucination for anyone in such a desperate quest for personal identity and self esteem — as well as an insatiable and unquenchable hunger for sex.
It is a story that seems to have all the tabloid appeal of a salacious crime thriller — at least for those unfamiliar with either young man. For friends, family and members of the community, however, it is simply tragic.
What the murder means to Provincetown, how it reflects the community, and the strange and surprising ways it brings the community together is of central interest to the film’s director, local videographer Tim McCarthy.
To further support the community, McCarthy is offering an exclusive screening and group discussion for local and state police, members of Helping Our Women and the AI DS Support Group of Cape Cod, residents of Foley House and friends of McGuire and Miksch. This free private screening begins at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, at The Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St.
In addition to his goal of creating a healing experience, McCarthy acknowledges the entertaining aspect of his documentary, which recently took top honors as Best Documentary at the Boston International Film Festival. “Isn’t it through entertainment that we truly open up our minds to what’s important?” he says.
The film pivots around live footage of the trial culminating in Miksch’s heartbreakingly continued from previous page
riveting testimony on the witness stand. McCarthy respectfully omitted all but one other witness testimony, including that of (full disclosure) this reporter, whose 11 hours of jail interviews made me a witness too. The one exception left in the film is that of a witness who came to town for an AA roundup, took meth, and, after Miksch killed Mc-Guire, had sex with Miksch in McGuire’s room with McGuire’s body tucked away in the closet — a detail that spoke too poignantly to the power of meth to delete, McCarthy says.
The film’s visual montages are striking. The camerawork and editing have a hand-held, in-your-face authenticity. The pace is aggressive; its 80-minute length feels less than half that.
But perhaps most intriguing is the array of video clips from the footage that McCarthy has collected over years of documenting almost every public event (including the entire Miksch murder trial) that have taken place in Provincetown. (Visit liptv.us to find these videos.) Throughout the narrative, McCarthy interspersed snippets taken out of context of their original setting and meant to sharpen the focus of the story. These snippets include interviews with well-known Provincetown familiars such as Mailer, filmmaker John Waters, writer Sebastian Junger, comedienne Kate Clinton, and the entertainer Pearlene. It also includes speakers at town meetings and personal interviews related to the crime — notably Dr. Patricia Case of Boston’s Urban Health Program on the realities of crystal meth abuse; alternate juror Lisa Olson on the homophobia that clouded the jury room; and Miksch’s defense attorney Drew Segadelli, grappling with his own homophobia and explanation for not fully exploring meth’s role in the crime. It is also from one of these snippets that the film’s curious subtitle, “Isn’t that what poetry is all about,” emerged. McCarthy’s lens captured the late U.S. Poet Laureate and founding member of Provincetown’s Fine Arts Work Center Stanley Kunitz speaking at the Work Center: “Perhaps the way to deal with the adversity is confront it within ourselves,” Kunitz says. “We have to fight for our little bit of health. We have to make living and dying important again and the living and dying of others. Isn’t that what poetry is all about?”
Kunitz’s words resonate deeply with the filmmaker and can be felt throughout McCarthy’s own unique visual poetry in this film.
The body of Timothy McGuire is removed from the scene of the crime.
“Meth & Murder in P’town” explores the story surrounding the death of Timothy McGuire.
The Boston International Film Festival awarded Tim McCarthy's latest film “Meth & Murder in P-town; isn’t that what poetry is about?” the “Indie Spec Documentary Award” for the best documentary of the 2010 festival.
"I thought it was courageous enough of BIFF to show the film. It is a very hard film. But to then give it an award really puts them on the cutting edge of recognizing new film making. The shorts that they paired with my film gave viewers an awareness of very edgy diversity that was great prep for watching my over the edge film.”, said Tim McCarthy. “It took Provincetown to make this film and not because the crime took place here but because of what the community did in response to the crime. The attention Provincetown paid directly to the problem of meth and the underlying social circumstances that create the market for meth and other drugs is undeniable. I also want to thank Mike Duplessis AKA Pearlene, for being there with me thru the whole process and making my dreams of graphics for the film come into reality. He more than anyone, helped me bring this to reality. Thanks also to the Boston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Fenway Community Health Center, the AIDS Action Committee and the Gay & Lesbian Review for sponsoring the film. And I want to thank John Scagliotti, John Waters, Kate Clinton, Joe Mantegna and so many others, but especially Provincetown for believing in me and the film, let the adventure continue.”
"a chilling insight into a horrendous crime". Patrick Falco
"A story so layered it seems like 3D." Kate Clinton
“’Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”- Provincetown style” John Waters
“the testimony of the defendant is rivetingly tragic” Ted Chapin
'Perhaps the way to deal with the adversary is confront him in
ourselves. We have to fight for our little bit of health. We have to
make our living and dieing important again and the living
and dieing of others. Isn't that what poetry is about?' Stanley
Kunitz, US Poet Laureate. This is a story of two gay men who
didn't think they were important and a town that is important
to the gay community, Provincetown. The story goes on to
investigate how homophobia and heterosexism influences
the legal system and justice. Like lemonade it is a tart and
bitter story but also refreshing.
Tim McCarthy, Director, Gay Video Historian