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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Edgy Lee film brings Daniel's message to teens

By Tanya Bricking Leach
Advertiser Staff Writer

Simi Mapu's children always knew where he stood on drugs.

Edgy Lee


Filmmaker Edgy Lee and producer Jeffrey Mueller's one-hour ice documentary, "Life or Meth," airs again at 8 p.m. tomorrow on PBS Hawaii (KHET-11). A one-hour panel discussion will follow the film.

Mapu, a police officer in Kahuku, had seen how crystal meth could tear families apart, and he wanted his seven kids to stay away from danger.

It still makes him proud that his son Daniel stood up for his beliefs.

It was miracle enough for the family that Daniel lived to see a Hawai'i-made ice documentary dedicated to him.

Daniel was taking part in an anti-drug roadside sign-waving campaign in Ka'a'awa one day in 2003 when a pickup truck veered off the highway, hitting Daniel, who was then struck again by a van. The former Kahuku High football player and dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center is still recovering from his injuries. His family has become a fixture at Kahuku Hospital, where the 23-year-old is trying to regain his speech and use of his limbs.

Daniel and his family were in the audience last month when filmmaker Edgy Lee's "Life or Meth: Hawaii's Youth" premiered for high school students.

When the film airs again tomorrow night, Simi Mapu will think of his son's stand against drugs and hope others are brave enough to follow his son's example.

"The kids we were sitting next to were really struck when the people in the film ate out of a Dumpster," he said. "It would be a good thing for parents to sit down and watch with their kids."

Daniel's mother, Maryann Mapu, was so moved by the film that she added a note to the family Web site (www.danielmapu.com) encouraging families to watch it together.

The one-hour documentary, the second by Lee and producer Jeffrey Mueller on Hawai'i's ice epidemic, is told through the voices of teens, who talk about their lives on ice.

Edgy Lee's "Life or Meth: Hawaii's Youth" premiered for high school students last month and will be shown again tomorrow night on television.

Crystal meth, which is smoked in this kind of pipe, is highly addictive.

Advertiser library photo

Daniel Mapu — photographed with his mother at Kahuku Hospital last summer — was injured during a roadside protest against meth abuse.

Advertiser library photo

Onscreen, the teens describe how so many think they can control the power of the drug — but in the end the drug controls them.

It's a gritty portrait of young lives thrown away for drugs, mixed in with public-service- announcement-like statements by public figures such as Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle and celebrity teen Jasmine Trias, the 18-year-old Maryknoll grad of "American Idol" fame, who talk about the detrimental effect of ice on Hawai'i.

"I think it's so important for this ice video to be shown," Trias said last week. "It brings awareness to what's going on in Hawai'i, and that we have to do something about it."

When local television stations simultaneously broadcast Lee's first ice documentary in 2003, it helped push the issue into the public eye and the agenda of lawmakers. Ice became a topic of town-hall meetings and sign-wavings. The Legislature allocated $14.7 million to the ice problem. Gov. Linda Lingle launched a campaign for a statewide drug-control strategy. Drug education and prevention programs popped up everywhere. And last month, Lee's sequel documentary aired on major networks. It will be rebroadcast tomorrow on PBS Hawaii (KHET-11), followed by a panel discussion.

Some credit the media blitz over ice and the boosted drug-education efforts for the decline in drug and alcohol use recorded in the latest school-based survey of nearly 30,000 students. The 2003 Hawai'i Student Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use Study reported a continuing decline in teen drinking, smoking and illegal drug use. It indicated teens were using ice much less in 2003 (when 4 percent of 12th-graders said they tried it) than when it peaked in 1989 (when as many as 12 percent of 12th-graders reported trying it).

But Lee isn't convinced we're winning the war on drugs.

Anecdotally, she's not seeing much of a decline. In an unscientific survey of students who saw last month's premiere, 33 percent said that one out of five kids they know smoke ice.

"I agree with her," Colette Miyamoto-Kajiwara, coordinator of the state Department of Education's central district High Core Program (a Wahiawa school for troubled teens known as Storefront), said of Lee's assessment that the latest state drug survey may not be much to cheer about. " 'Just say no' is not enough."

She is familiar with plenty of anecdotes of teen ice users. In fact, Corey, an ice addict in the film shown wiping ants and mold from pizza he eats from a trash bin, is one of her students.

The fact that this ice documentary is about teens themselves talking about life as addicts has made more of an impact than other drug-education efforts, she said.

"Plenty times, when you bring guys in to talk to the kids, the kids still have this superman/superwoman attitude. They think they're invincible," she said. "But I think this one, because it was about kids, they could relate to it."

When Corey came back to school after the students had seen the film, they asked him how he could ever eat ant-covered pizza out of the trash.

Corey joked back that it was just more protein, but in all seriousness, his classmates can see how much he's grown. He expects to graduate this year.

"He's a good kid," Miyamoto-Kajiwara said. "He's come a long way."

Simi Mapu, whose son stood up against drugs, saw the way teens sitting around him in the movie reacted to Corey, and Mapu said watching Corey's story on TV tomorrow night could be eye-opening for Hawai'i families.

"We appreciate what Edgy and Jeffrey are doing to make our youth aware of the problems with ice," he said. "It destroys too many lives."

Tanya Bricking Leach writes about relationships. Reach her at tleach@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8026.

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More than 400 students from Hawai'i public and private high schools saw last month's premiere of "Life or Meth: Hawaii's Youth." Here's how 260 students responded to a survey following the film:

  • 8 percent responded "yes" when asked if they smoke, or have smoked, ice.
  • 33 percent said that one of five kids they know smokes ice.
  • 13 percent said one of 10 kids they know smokes ice.
  • 15 percent said one of 30 kids they know smokes ice.
  • 16 percent said one of 100 kids they know smokes ice.
  • 23 percent responded that they don't know any kids who smoke ice.
  • 94 percent said they felt film is a good medium to discuss or teach about drugs and addiction.