Shed Your Tears and Walk Away
A bold and deeply personal piece of documentary filmmaking, Shed Your Tears and Walk Away explores the impact of addiction, unemployment, and homelessness on small town communities.
Why, in the beautiful rural town of Hebden Bridge, are Jez Lewis’s childhood friends killing themselves? Beginning with a personal quest for understanding, the film moves into a year-long drama of human tragedy and redemption as principal character Cass comes to terms with his own mortality and attempts to lift himself out of a cycle of self-destruction.
This core narrative carves an upward arc through an intimate study of a place often described as paradise, but which harbours an undertow of lethal hedonism and disillusionment. As people continue to kill themselves during the making of the film, a maelstrom of conflicting values throws up unexpected truths about the human condition.
“This is a film I never wanted to make. In the past, several friends had suggested I return to my home town to make my first film after hearing about my background. I’d always said that I didn’t want to because I left that difficult life behind when I went away to university (probably the first person from my neighbourhood to do so). But when my childhood friend Emma died of a heroin overdose it was a real shock, and our families had been so close when we were children that I felt as if I had lost a relative.
I felt horribly sad, but also confused: five people from our street had committed suicide, as had several other friends from our tiny home town of Hebden Bridge. And I was angry that no-one else seemed to be joining the dots and seeing that there was a real problem here. I felt I must do what I could to bring it out of the shadows and show the situation not as a statistical phenomenon, but as a human tragedy with real people and complex, individual stories.
Reluctantly I returned to Hebden Bridge to try and understand what was going on, and to give a voice to the people who had become marginalised as the town was gentrified over recent decades: as one of my contributors puts it, ‘normally anyone who comes round here with a camera asks us to get out of the way’.”