The full horror of terminal addiction. In life, whatever you feed, will survive. Be careful what you feed.
Ben had already edited his footage while alive into a rather incoherent 45-minute film. There was a story in a local newspaper that was later picked up by the BBC about this film, and Gecko Productions, a small independent production company, got in touch with Anne and asked her if they could make a proper documentary out of it.
She was ready by then – and Gecko employed Lambert to do the job. Lambert’s previous documentaries had been set predominantly in war zones – Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza – but he instantly saw the compelling nature of the very different material he’d been handed here.
Though he flinched at some of the footage – over 30 hours, it repeatedly shows Ben injecting heroin into his groin, since his veins were too damaged. “I thought it was too dark at first,” says Lambert. “But by the next morning, I thought the fact that I’d had such an emotional response to it is probably exactly why I had to do it.” Lambert ended up making a film that was very different from the one Ben had hoped to make.
“He wanted to film his recovery from drugs,” Lambert explains. “He wanted to be a romantic hero.” Lambert’s film instead presents the sad story of a man fighting a losing battle. It has won Ben’s mother’s approval. “I think the documentary is absolutely amazing,” she says. “I think they’ve really honoured us as a family. They’ve not dumbed it down. But they’ve not sensationalised it either.”
If Anne Rogers now hopes this film about her son’s suffering will achieve some social good, her son’s relationship to the footage he left will remain a more tortured one. Lambert believes that Ben became almost as dependent on his camera as he had been on heroin. “At the end, the camera was the one person he could talk to in the middle of the night,” he says. “That camera was in and out of Cash Converters all the time. He had to pay up to £200 every time he got it back. That’s a lot of money when you’re really desperate. But he always went back to get it. It was the one thing he hung on to.”