Reunion and Redemption

Reunion and Redemption

By Gregg Barrios

A documentary of poverty, addiction, and a broken home

In PBS's P.O.V. premiere of Love & Diane, first-time filmmaker Jennifer Dworkin focuses on the real-life tribulations of Diane Hazzard, a former crack addict, who abandoned her five young children at the time they needed her most.

When daughter Love and Diane reunite 10 years later, they are strangers bound only by blood ties. Diane has successfully kicked her drug habit and proven to the child welfare agency that she is now fit to be a mother. But her reunion with Love quickly turns into resentful bickering and accusations. Love, now 18 and HIV-positive, has her own child, Donyaeh, who may also carry the virus. The neglectful mother moves in with Diane and relies on her to take charge of the infant. "I carried him for nine months and now I have to learn to carry myself," she says.

Love & Diane

Dir. Jennifer Dworkin; feat. Diane Hazzard & her family (NR)

Dworkin lets the Hazzard family history surface through everyday conversation as the family - individually and collectively - confront the mystery of survival and living in a material world. "We've got to have faith," Diane says to her brood in a moment of desperation. But Love won't hear it. "Faith is not going to help you. It didn't help Charles," she retorts, referring to a brother who committed suicide, a desperate act that she too has attempted. Diane, who has worked against the odds to get her life together, is devastated by her daughter's harsh condemnation. "It's so easy to give up."

The film explores the Kafkaesque system of public assistance and the labyrinthine maze it creates for the poor and uneducated. When asked about her life in the group home for over six years, Love simply replies: "Hell." For the Hazzard women, the cycle of poverty and hardship is generational. "I sometimes think I am my mother," Love says in frustration after her child is taken from her due to her violent outbursts. Later, in an epiphany, she learns her mother's bitter lesson well: "You don't get rid of the past by bringing it up all of the time."

Ultimately, Diane tells her daughter that they cannot live together. "This world depends on self-help. I cannot make up for the past." She leaves her daughter to her own struggle, and subsequently enrolls in a self-help course, where the director presents a moment of truth to the group: "Are you ready to look in the mirror and let us tell you what we see there?" Diane responds by picking up the mirror and her redemption.

The Hazzard family's eloquent ability to voice dreams and to confront demons suggests a latter day Alice Walker novel. The searing portrait of people striving to make ends meet in Love & Diane is a universal and heartbreaking document of creating life from nothing and often coming up empty-handed.

Love & Diane premieres at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21 on PBS-KLRN Channel 9 (cable 10). •

By Gregg Barrios

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