PopPolitics: Matthew Heineman on How ‘The Trade’ Humanized the Heroin Epidemic (Listen)

Plus: Josh Silver Takes On 'The Swamp'; Super Bowl Advertisers Steer Clear of Wedge Issues

Matthew Heineman Marie Colvin
Carlos Tischler/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Matthew Heineman won a Directors Guild of America award on Saturday for his documentary “City of Ghosts,” about the media activist group battling ISIS in Syria.

It came on the same weekend as the debut of his latest project, the Showtime series “The Trade,” which depicts the heroin epidemic from a number of fronts, including detectives tracking down traffickers in Columbus, Ohio; poppy growers in Guerrero, Mexico; and a couple of addicts in Atlanta. The footage Heineman and his team obtained is gripping and chilling, particularly as the first episode shows one addict, Skyler, shooting up with his girlfriend in a motel room, a reminder of the powerlessness that users face from their disease.

Heineman tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” that with daily headlines about the opioid epidemic, he wanted to humanize the stories. He wanted to show “these different characters in the trade, all of whom are sort of stuck in the different cycle of addiction, in different ways and different forms. But they are all in some sense trying to escape it….Everyone is trying to break free of the shackles of this drug, but unfortunately it has become an epidemic.”

He added, “We do need to stop thinking of this as a ‘war’ in which [it is about] erecting walls or a police issue and start to think of it more as a health care issue, as a disease”

The show, however, focuses not on policy, but the personal stories.

Listen below:

‘The Swamp’ survives

Josh Silver, the founder of Represent.us, talks about the group’s weekend event in New Orleans, called Unrig the System, which works at the state and local level to pass anti-corruption initiatives. Jennifer Lawrence was among the headliners. Silver talks of how Donald Trump has failed to “drain the swamp” — but Barack Obama didn’t either.

Listen below:

Super Bowl goes apolitical

Variety‘s Brian Steinberg talks about how advertisers are steering clear of divisive political topics in their ads during this year’s Super Bowl.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.