© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Gasparilla Film Festival documentary tells stories of addiction, homelessness ... and recovery

"Second Chances," directed by a USF professor, features four individuals from Tampa as they recovered from addiction and homelessness while struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drug addiction crisis in the United States is far-reaching and much publicized. It is measured, numbered, politicized and analyzed as different governments and organizations pursue a solution.

While these efforts are important, USF professor and filmmaker Tamara Nemirovsky seeks to muffle the noise and listen to the voices of people within the community.

Nemirovsky says that no matter how much knowledge about the issue is available, people will not truly understand it if they don't relate.

She thought, "How can we take these huge numbers, and make them a person?"

Her answer: "Second Chances."

A man holds a sign advertising the Portico Cafe.
The Portico
The Portico Cafe offers employment to people who are recovering from drug addictions and incarceration.

Nemirovsky started filmmaking in Argentina, her home country. After her stop-motion films received international awards, she became a Fulbright Scholar and moved to the United States. She received a Master's degree in computer animation, and worked in children's television programming.

After returning to Argentina for two years, she came back to the United States.

Her new documentary, "Second Chances," will premier at the Gasparilla Film Festival on March 26.

"I thought that it was going to be a small project, something maybe 20 minutes long," said Nemirovsky, a professor at USF's School of Art and Art History and The Honors College.

Tamara Nemirovsky
Tamara Nemirovsky
Tamara Nemirovsky is the creator and director of Second Chances, a documentary that highlights people who are working their way through recovery from drug addictions.

The documentary is 52 minutes long. It shows the successes and struggles of community members who are literally working through recovery at The Portico Cafe in Tampa.

According to its website, Portico Cafe "offers people transitioning from homelessness, addiction, and incarceration job training, employment ladders, and connections to safe, affordable housing."

"Second Chances" follows the story of four different cafe employees on their road to recovery. Nemirovsky, who started filming in February 2020, wanted to start the film with shots of a wedding, a new house and a reunion with children.

COVID changed her plans entirely.

"COVID happened at the beginning when I was filming. And all these stories I had planned in my mind changed — I mean, all our stories changed," Nemirovsky said. "But the story of these people recovering from addiction was greatly affected by COVID."

When the pandemic brought business to a halt, cafe workers were afraid.

"My biggest fear was that with the uncertainty of pay, without having a job, some of the people who are transitioning would fall back into old habits," General Manager Mindi Vaughan said in a "Second Chances" interview.

Nemirovsky worked through the pandemic to continue sharing the stories of those in the cafe community. She says that while she wants people to come see the documentary's debut, she was much more concerned with its acceptance by the community she featured.

A barista works with an espresso machine during her shift at the Portico Cafe.
Screengrab from video
A barista works with an espresso machine during her shift at the Portico Cafe.

"I was very happy when they told me that I really captured the essence what they were going through at that moment," Nemirovsky said.

The Gasparilla Film Festival, from March 23-27, will include comedies, dramas and documentaries spread throughout the city. It will also include a high school film competition.

"Second Chances" will be shown Sun,. March 26, at 1 p.m. at AMC Westshore 6, one of the four locations where films will be screened during the five-day film festival. Tickets are available for purchase online.

WUSF Public Media is a sponsor of the Gasparilla Film Festival.

Joanna Keen is the WUSF Stephen Noble Digital News intern for spring of 2023.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.