Isle filmmaker Edgy Lee's documentary explored the "ice" problem in Hawaii.

Local ‘ice’ documentary
pre-empts season premieres

Edgy Lee's film airs without
commercials on 11 stations in all

All four of Hawaii's major network TV affiliates took an hour of prime-time air time during the fall season's premiere week to show a documentary on the state's crystal methamphetamine problem -- a sign of the intense public attention the issue is demanding.

Isle filmmaker Edgy Lee's "Ice: Hawaii's Crystal Meth Epidemic," played to a somewhat captive audience last night, airing on 11 stations in all, including the affiliates for CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS and WB.

The film included people chosen to show the reach of the drug across the state -- a lawyer who became addicted, a father left alone to care for his two children when their mother was arrested, a tearful nurse who treated users.

"You have to be dumb, deaf and ignorant not to know that we have a severe, severe problem," Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said in the film.

The film followed nearly two months of "Talk Story" community meetings hosted by Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James Aiona that largely centered on "ice," as crystal meth is known. And it came a week after the close of a statewide drug summit -- the first major effort by the state's top leaders to address the issue.

The unprecedented, commercial-free airing agreement did not come without a cost. It meant thousands of dollars in lost ad revenues for the stations and the canceling or delayed airing of the season premieres of "Ed," "60 Minutes II," "My Wife and Kids" and "Performing As."

"This is in the public interest," said John Fink, general manager of KHNL, the NBC affiliate, and KFVE.

Fink said the stations believed the show would be ready before premiere week when he agreed to air it, but that the film is still "pretty stark and riveting stuff."

The film's making was prompted by some troubling statistics:

>> Some 37.4 percent of men jailed in Honolulu tested positive for methamphetamine in 2001, higher than any other major U.S. city, the federal government says.

>> The Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office reported that on the island of Oahu, deaths in which ice was a principal cause quadrupled in the past decade to 62 last year, surpassing deaths related to any other illegal drug or alcohol.

>> Crystal meth overtook alcohol as the primary substance used by adults admitted to treatment centers in Hawaii, according to the state Health Department. The 2002 total -- 2,888 ice users admitted -- was double the amount just four years earlier.

Some stations even added additional ice programming to follow Lee's film. Among them was KHON, the FOX affiliate, which showed an hourlong panel including Lingle and Aiona; and KFVE, the WB station, which aired a half-hour program focusing on teen drug usage.

"This is about real people and real families," Lingle said in the KHON forum. "This is about the heart and soul of the state of Hawaii."


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