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Film details Steve Fonyo's fall from grace

Award-winning documentary sheds light on runner’s dark side
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HUMAN HIGHLIGHT REEL: Steve Fonyo hurts himself and everyone around him in a documentary film about his life. Contributed photo

Steve Fonyo, who finished what Terry Fox began by running across Canada, then began a downward spiral from the heights of public adulation to the depths of despair, will not be attending the screening of Hurt: The Steve Fonyo Story in Powell River on Friday, April 15.

“He is back in prison,” said Peter Gentile, producer of the award-winning documentary about a year in the life of Fonyo; not one of the good years.

The night before winning the 2015 Canadian Screen Award (CSA) for best documentary film, Gentile received a text message that Fonyo had been arrested and was in jail.

“He’s in jail for six weeks, so he will not be in Powell River at the screening,” said Gentile. “He had his trial on April 1; his stay in prison was extended for another six weeks for a parole violation.”

Fonyo has been in the media spotlight since 1984 when, at the age of 18, he began his coast-to-coast run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. Most of his left leg was amputated when he was 12 years old because of bone cancer.

“We all know about Terry Fox; the angel of Terry Fox,” said Gentile. “We all know what he did; died trying to make it halfway across Canada. Fonyo actually made it. He’s kind of the bad guy to Terry Fox’s good guy.”

The documentary is about Fonyo’s dark side, including problems with drugs and violence. Fonyo is an extreme guy, according to Gentile, who got to know and care about the Canadian icon through the process of filming. He described Fonyo as someone on the edge, who does not know where the next meal is going to come from or where he is going to be sleeping.

“The director [Alan Zweig] and I have always been attracted to anti-heroes and people on the fringes of society. Steve is now looked upon as being on the fringes,” said Gentile.

The original working title for the film was No Angel. However, during the process of following Fonyo for a year, Gentile said he and Zweig found themselves dealing with an individual with a lot of scars.

According to Gentile, Fonyo hurts people in his life and, as filmmakers, they also found themselves hurting, emotionally and psychologically.

“In a weird kind of way, we felt a bit of the pain and difficulties he had,” said Gentile. He added that after the experience of being with Fonyo for a year, Hurt was the right title for the film.

“Sometimes a film tells you what the title is going to be, and it told us it was Hurt,” he said.

In addition to winning the CSA, the film opened to rave reviews in 2015 at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) where it was chosen as a platform selection.

“The film is sometimes surreal,” said Gentile. “It’s poignant, it’s scary, it’s touching and it’s revolting. He doesn’t hold anything back and sometimes it’s hard to take.”

Hurt: The Steve Fonyo Story will be screened Friday, April 15, at 7 pm in Evergreen Theatre at Powell River Recreation Complex, with Gentile attending. Admission is free. For more information, go to