CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Speaker after speaker at an Oceana town hall Friday night gave the same message: prescription drugs are a community problem that will require a community solution.
"The last 10 years I went to way too many funerals of kids I taught," said Larry Mathis, an Oceana resident, speaking through tears. "Now it's time for a change."
Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Nick Rahall, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, state legislators and federal and state law enforcement officials spoke to about 200 people at Oceana Middle School in response to a forthcoming documentary, "Oxyana," which paints a picture of widespread prescription drug abuse and despair in Oceana.
Nobody denied that there is a drug problem, but the film's director, Sean Dunne, was heaped with scorn and derision for painting a one-sided pessimistic picture of a town that residents said is no different than any other.
"Mr. Dunne spent three weeks filming and he used those three weeks to try to define our town," said D.J. Morgan, a local lawyer and the organizer of the town hall. "Today we start to define ourselves on our own terms."
Rep. Rahall accused Dunne of coming in from his "ivory tower" in New York and doing a hatchet job on the community.
Very few have seen the film, which was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and has not been widely released. But some of the statements in the trailer -- that Oceana is the scariest place in the world and half of a recent high school class has died of overdoses -- are impossible to believe.
"They call it a documentary, but it's actually a complete fiction," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, the top law enforcement officer in Southern West Virginia.
"The Oceana that Mr. Dunne dreamed up doesn't look anything like the Oceana that I know."
Dunne has repeatedly denied interview requests and requests to see the movie before it is released.
Many solutions were offered -- tougher laws, more treatment facilities, different enforcement tactics -- but the clear consensus was that a solution would only come from citizens taking more responsibility for the town and talking together as a community.