New Directions for Women proudly acknowledges and celebrates Bill W.! The recent movie, shown in local theaters, has sparked more conversation about recovery treatment. As an alcohol rehab for women, we produced an article in honor of Alcoholics Anonymous and of the people who have paved the way for treatment centers like ours. Enjoy the article below.
Bill W.’s story
“Laudatory but never simplistic, ‘Bill W.’ is a thoroughly engrossing portrait of Wilson, his times and the visionary fellowship that is his legacy.”
–Los Angeles Times
Longtime New Directions board member Dan Carracino has recently released his first movie— the end product of a collaborative labor of love. Eight years in the making, the feature-length documentary, Bill W., opened May 18 in Irvine and other cities. Dan co-directed the film with his lifelong friend Kevin Hanlon, and credits co-writer and editor Patrick Gambuti, Jr. as instrumental in telling the story.
The story is the life of William G. Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. Interviews, recreations, and rare archival material reveal how Bill Wilson, a hopeless drunk near death from his alcoholism, found a way out of his own addiction and then forged a path for countless others to follow.
“We felt very privileged to be able to make this film,” says Dan. “It’s such an important story, one that we hope to share with not only the recovery community, but to a much larger audience as well.”
Currently doing quite well, the film has held over in many of the cities it’s played, with several screenings booked through the end of the Fall season. Landmark Theatres, the nation’s largest theatre chain devoted primarily to independent film, will screen Bill W. in July and August in 13 cities around the country.
The critics have given the movie good reviews and audience members overwhelmingly like it. “We are very happy with the response we’re getting,” Dan said.
Bill W.’s life has never been documented to this extent in a film before for a number of reasons— primarily lack of content.
“Finding visual material was probably the most challenging aspect of telling the story,” said Dan. “It took us several years to uncover the photos and film clips that we needed. AA’s tradition of anonymity made it even tougher.”
Through some fortuitous events, the filmmakers were able to acquire over 1500 negatives of Bill and Lois Wilson—a treasure trove of photographs nobody knew existed. Home movies made by Lois’s family in 1908 were restored to include footage that is over 100 years old. There are also some original and rare clips of Bill and Dr. Bob from a home movie made in 1948 that is the only known footage of the two co-founders together.
The interview process also required some finesse. “It took a while for people to warm up to us. It’s a delicate subject matter— many people were telling us things of innermost importance to them. “Since we were first- time filmmakers, people weren’t totally sure we’d protect their anonymity or portray their stories properly. Kevin and I felt a great responsibility to them.”
The result is a thorough, accurate and objective look at the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. “We tried to abide by the traditions ourselves in making this film—specifically that we don’t really have an opinion on outside issues, and are not affiliated with any organizations (including AA). We weren’t funded by anyone, and are not endorsing anybody or anything. We’re just trying to get the film out there for people to see it.”
The filmmakers also took great care to uphold the tradition of anonymity and were actually able to make this film because of Bill Wilson himself. Bill W.—who maintained his anonymity when he was alive—gave written permission to have it broken posthumously. “He had the foresight to handle the anonymity issue ahead of time.”
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