The Fisher King

The Fisher King includes several brief depictions of physically disabled people, as well as Robin Williams in a not-exactly-clinically-accurate-but-lovable! depiction of a former professor suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (After witnessing the brutal murder of his wife at the hands of a mentally ill man, he spends some time catatonic “in a mental place on Staten Island” and emerges believing he’s a knight on a holy quest.) The gunman, clearly very lonely and seeking advice on talking to a woman, had been goaded into shooting up a popular bar by radio shock-jock protagonist Jack. When he learns of the effect of his bullying, Jack in turn becomes suicidally despondent and attempts to drown himself. In a twist of fate, Jack is introduced to Parry (who is accompanied by a couple other homeless men, one using crutches) and experiences the painful flutterings of an awakening of conscience.

Parry takes him back to the basement he’s been crashing in, where it becomes obvious that he not only has auditory hallucinations but tries to enlist Jack on his quest for the Holy Grail. Jack tries to give him a little money instead, but Parry’s kind “landlord” (who wears an old-fashioned hearing aid in one ear) explains that Parry needs much more than a few dollars to regain what he had lost. Perry tells Jack the story of the Fisher King and the festering wound he received, mirroring the wounds they’ve received in life (and manifest in Jack’s bandaged hand).

Both a motorized wheelchair user and a little person wearing a business suit are milling about in the background when Parry takes Jack to see Lydia, the woman he admires from afar. Parry then shows Jack the “castle” of wealthy philanthropist Landon Carmichael, from whom Parry intends to steal the Grail. (In this high-rent district, there’s another person in a wheelchair, this time an elderly lady being pushed by a uniformed attendant.)

Jack balks at the dangerous plan and suddenly tries to confront Parry with the reality of his identity. Parry is quickly overwhelmed and has a screaming fit, running away to a nearby park where he snaps out of it to come to the aid of an injured and incoherent gay man. Jack and Parry take “Venice” to a crowded, dirty public hospital for medical attention, and Jack’s introduction to the disparities in health care between the rich and the poor.

Jack’s education continues with a trip to Grand Central, where he strikes up a conversation with a disabled veteran begging for spare change. Someone tosses a coin on the floor where the wheelchair-using man can’t reach to pick it up.

“He didn’t even look at you.”
“Well, he’s paying so he don’t have to look.”
“Say, guy goes to work every day eight hours a day, seven days a week. He starts questioning the very fabric of his existence. Then one day about quitting time the boss calls him into the office and says, “Hey Bob, why don’t you come on in here and kiss my ass for me, will you?”
“Well,” he says, “hell with it. I don’t care what happens. I just want to see the expression on his face as I jam this pair of scissors into his arm.”
Then he thinks of me. He says “Wait a minute. I got both my arms, I got both my legs. At least I’m not begging for a living.” Sure enough, Bob’s going to put those scissors down and pucker right up. See, I’m what you call a moral traffic light, really. I’m, like, saying “Red. Go no further. Boop… boop…”

A successful first date with Lydia sets up an internal conflict for Parry, and he has a showdown with The Red Knight, the symbol of his trauma. He becomes stupefied with fear, and is taken back to a mental hospital. Lydia oversees his care, providing cutesy sheets and demanding he be clad in pajamas instead of a hospital gown, but this isn’t enough to wake the prince. Jack presents the Grail and Parry magically wakes up, restored to sanity (and with no side effects from the psychoactive drugs he was probably pumped full of) and ready to lead a chorus of “the bungled and the botched” in song.

Hemingway family mental illness explored in new film

from Hemingway family mental illness explored in new film
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
updated 8:57 AM EST, Wed January 23, 2013
(CNN) — Every family, even famous ones, have secrets. The Hemingways are no different.

“We were, sort of, the other American family that had this horrible curse,” says Mariel Hemingway. She compared her family to the Kennedys — but the Hemingway curse, she said, is mental illness.

Hemingway, granddaughter of acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway, explores the troubled history of her family in “Running from Crazy,” a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday. Barbara Kopple is the director; Oprah Winfrey is the executive producer.

“Knowing that there’s so much suicide and so much mental illness in my family, I’ve always kind of been ‘running from crazy,’ worried that one day I’d wake up and be in the same position,” Mariel Hemingway, 51, said at a support group for families of suicide, as shown in the film.
Hemingway told CNN last week she wanted this documentary to be an unveiling of her family history, and to give people permission to express their own “stuff,” to realize they’re “not alone in the world of dysfunction.”

The documentary guides the viewer through the turmoil of her parents’ marriage and the troubled relationships between her and her siblings. It includes archival footage from when her sister Margaux Hemingway, who took her own life in 1996, had been making a personal family documentary.

“Suicide has no rhyme or reason,” Hemingway said. “Some people think about it for years and plan it. Some people, it’s 20 dark minutes of their life that they decide to take their life that comes out of the blue. It’s very random, it’s very frightening.”
Hemingway doc looks at mental illness

Whether Hemingway is jumping on a trampoline or submerging herself in a cold stream, with her pointed nose and bouncy blonde hair, her message in the film is one of achieving mental well-being and overcoming one’s own problems. These scenes contrast with newspaper clippings, still photos and melancholy video clips from her family’s past.

Seven members of Hemingway’s family have died by taking their own lives, including Ernest and Mariel Hemingway’s older sister Margaux, she said. Mariel Hemingway had denied her sister’s death was a suicide until an event hosted by the American Association for the Prevention of Suicide in 2003.

Ernest Hemingway, who won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature, struggled with depression and killed himself in 1961, just months before Mariel Hemingway was born. But suicide wasn’t something that was talked about when she was growing up.

“Nobody spoke about anything,” she said. “It was a different generation.” Even her sister’s suicide was not talked about, she said.

The film’s biggest revelation, which was the most difficult part of her family history for Hemingway to reveal, is that she believes her father, Jack Hemingway, sexually abused her sisters Margaux and Joan, nicknamed “Muffet.” Hemingway drops this information bomb only briefly in the film — the first time she has revealed this publicly. Jack Hemingway died in 2000.

Hemingway told CNN she does not remember her father abusing her, but notes that she did sleep in the same room as her mother, who had cancer, possibly as protection from her father. She is not sure if her mother knew what was going on. It’s possible that her father didn’t even remember doing it, she says, because he was drunk. Alcohol abuse also runs in the family, she said.

Mariel Hemingway began her screen acting career as the younger sister of a character played by Margaux in the 1976 film “Lipstick.” Critics praised Mariel and dissed Margaux, which strained their relationship.

But Mariel Hemingway said she had been in touch with her sister the week before she died. “She was seemingly OK,” she said. “But you never really know with suicide what’s going on in a person’s mind.”

Prior to the film, Hemingway only saw her sister Joan Hemingway about once a year. Muffet Hemingway lives in Sun Valley, Idaho; Mariel Hemingway lives in Los Angeles.

Muffet had experimented with LSD when she was young, and received a diagnosis of manic depression. Mariel Hemingway has discussed her sister’s struggles in numerous interviews over the years.

“She represented being, you know, ‘crazy,’ ” Mariel Hemingway said last week. “I always feared that I would wake up that way, or that maybe I was that way and I didn’t even know it.”

But since doing the film, they have seen each other a bit more often, including at Christmas. Making the movie has made Mariel Hemingway get over her fear of seeing her sister, whom she describes as “such a loving, kind person.”

“My dream is to be able to have enough money to take care of her myself, and really take over her care,” she said.

Attempts by CNN to contact Joan Hemingway were unsuccessful. An April article in the Twin Falls, Idaho, Times-News said her artwork was being featured in a business in Ketchum, the town adjacent to Sun Valley. Business owner Nicola Potts told the newspaper that Joan Hemingway, 61, leads a “very happy, very private life.”

Mariel, too, said she has had depression and suicidal thoughts, and recalls suffering insecurity and being fearful and depressed growing up. When she overcame that, “I was like, ‘I’ve spent all my life being that way,’ ” she said.

To move past these feelings, Hemingway says she has “done everything” — psychotherapy, gurus, holistic doctors — and each of the methods she has tried have given her something of value. On her blog, for instance, she recommends that everyone take a few minutes of silence in the morning and before sleeping to be still and silent, which helps her to be more calm and focused.

Practices such as these, in addition to exercise, spending time in nature, and eating right, have all helped her achieve peace, she said. It’s only within the last four years that she feels she has completely overcome depression.

“It’s amazing to me that I’m not sad anymore, and that I don’t worry and that I don’t fear,” she said.

These days, Hemingway and her boyfriend Bobby Williams have a lifestyle company called TheWillingWay (“He has the ‘will,’ I have the ‘way,’ ” Hemingway said). Health and wellness are her passion.

She also advocates for suicide and mental illness awareness. She is open and communicative with her two daughters about their own mental health, too.

“I think people need to talk about it a lot,” she said of mental illness, “Making it OK that it’s in your family.” She added, “It doesn’t shame anyone, and it doesn’t make anybody’s family an ugly, bad family.”

That is a challenge to which this Sundance film also rises.

For immediate assistance, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide.

Filmmaker Sheds Light on Mental Illness

From Huffington Filmmaker Sheds Light on Mental Illness
by Gregory G. Allen
Adversity and Diversity author
There is a new film hitting the film festivals with a very heavy subject. French filmmaker Jonathan Bucari has written and directed a short film about mental illness and the effects it has on a family. There are many families across American (and the world) that silently deal with this daily and after viewing “Illness”, I knew I wanted to speak to Jonathan.

Gregory G. Allen: Having seen a screening of your film, Jonathan, I can attest firsthand how powerful it is in depicting the lives of this one family. What drew you to this story?
Jonathan Bucari: The topic of mental illness has been on my mind for many years. I grew up with a sister who has Downs Syndrome and when she was little she lived in an institution. She was living with children with all kinds of different backgrounds and emotional and mental disabilities. I recall visiting her and meeting kids with a variety of mental disorders. On one of my visits when I was about 7 years old I saw a very young boy having an “episode” and I was very shocked. I wasn’t prepared, I didn’t understand and nobody explained it to me. After 20 years, I can still remember that scene, which was the initial inspiration for the story of “illness.”

When I came to the United States, I was struck by the fact mental illness was often associated with violence and mass shootings, reinforcing an assumption that people with mental illness were dangerous to society. In fact, people who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators and, of course, discussions like these only reinforce the awful stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Allen: I grew up as a foster family and recall one child having some major emotional breakdowns. At the time, we weren’t sure if mental illness was to blame or not as he came and left our lives so quickly. You capture that so adeptly in your film. How was it to work with the young children in your film on this mature topic?

Bucari: I thought at first that working with such a young cast would be difficult, but working with Noah Silverman and Julian Murdoch was a real pleasure. Both of them have real maturity for their age and seemed to understand the topic well for boys their age. I was actually very honored to work with Noah, who plays Timothy. One of Noah’s older brothers suffers from Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety and Depression, so the topic was really important to him. Not only did Noah want to make sure the film was accurate, but he also wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t portray Timothy as a bad person or a monster.

Finding Timothy’s little brother was more complex. I had worked with Julian before so I was confident in his acting capability, but I was a bit worried about the maturity of the material. Julian is extraordinarily mature for his age and his family has been extremely supportive of the film. They are also very interested in raising awareness of mental illness.

It really was a pleasure working with all of the young people in the cast. We made sure that everyone felt very safe and comfortable. The first time the cast met, everyone seemed to bond and become a real family instantly. Cheryl Allison, who played the mom in the film, really went out of her way to connect with the boys to make sure that they felt at ease. We were also very lucky to have Renae Baker on the team, who is a great child acting coach. It was a pleasure working with all of them.
Bucari: When I was writing the story I needed a catalyst, something dramatic enough to raise awareness of the reality of children’s mental health issues and to raise an important question: what could happen if a child has a mental illness that is left untreated? Even though the shooting is barely mentioned in the film, it was important to me to connect the story of this family to what is happening in the real world. Every mother can relate to our mother in the film, especially when she learns about the shooting. What happened in Newtown was a tragedy beyond words, but it seemed to be the first time that people started discussing mental illness in a way that acknowledged that the underlying problem is lack of treatment. One out of every five kids suffers from a mental health disorder at any given time.
Allen: Those are amazing numbers. I had no idea. People usually fear what they don’t know – and I’m sure many people do not understand what happens behind closed doors in the families of someone with mental illness. Were you at all concerned about the light your film shines on this illness?

Bucari: Mental illness seems to be treated like cancer was 20 years ago. Everyone is afraid of the word and no one fully understands how it is affecting us. Some parents just don’t want to label their kids and many other are just afraid and blame themselves. They live in shame that the society will never accept them and don’t know where to turn for help.

Allen: I know you share several facts in the teaser for the film, but have you talked to many families that live this life either before writing it or since screening it?
Bucari: We were very fortunate and honored to have Randi Silverman as our associate producer. She is a cancer survivor and a parent of a bipolar child. I met her after writing the first draft of the story and she was blown away by how realistic and powerful the script was. I didn’t realize until I spoke with her about her personal experiences just how close to reality I was. She helped make sure that the script was as realistic as possible and spent a great deal of time talking with us about what it really is like to raise a child with a serious mental health disorder.

My story became her story. Our goal was to make sure that the character with a mental illness was not portrayed as a monster or a sociopath, which is what we have seen before on films. We wanted to tell a story of a wonderful, smart kid who is struggling everyday day with an illness so terrible that no words can describe it.

What makes our film special is the fact that in real life Noah was the little brother in my story. Now he is playing the part of the older brother suffering with the illness.
Allen: The story surrounding the film seems just as powerful that so many involved had a stake in it. What is your hope for the film? What do you want people to take away from it?

Bucari: Our hope for the film is to share it with as many people as we can and screen it wherever we can.

One of the next steps for the film is to wait and see where the world premiere is going to be and which Festival will be the first. We already submitted to more than 35 festivals all over the world.

After a year or so of promoting it through Film Festivals, we would like to give the film a Second Life by using it to promote awareness of children and adolescent mental health issues and to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. Ultimately, our main goal is to help families get help for their kids and restore hope for them.

Allen: Where can people find more information about it?

Bucari: You can find information about the movie on IMDb and of course on our Facebook page.

Allen: Thank you for not only bringing this topic into focus, but spending time to discuss it with me today. I do believe the more people that discuss a topic (whatever that may be), the less fear people will have about it.

Official trailer of Illness available via IMDb.

How ‘Finding Dory’ Can Work: More Mental Disability

from How ‘Finding Dory’ Can Work: More Mental Disability
By: Michael Arbeiter
It is the principal consensus that Toy Story 3 is a masterpiece. Not because it stayed faithful to the sentiments of its beloved predecessors, but because it dared to expand upon them. Toy Story introduced an enjoyable one-note tale of a cowboy doll clinging to his owner’s favoritism, allowing room for its follow-up films to explore the humanity of this theme in much more depth.

This is the charge that faces the Finding Nemo franchise, what with sequel movie Finding Dory newly announced — will the next chapter for the Pixar pisces just be a rehashing of the 2003 road comedy? Or will the latest venture delve more explicitly into the most interesting subject introduced in Finding Nemo: mental disability?
The superficial plot design of Finding Nemo likely spawned from road comedy staples from the days of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, but the journey beneath the sea hearkens to a more recent, much heavier entry in the genre: Rain Man. When the uptight straight man Marlin (Albert Brooks) takes up begrudgingly with flighty loner Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) on a globetrotting quest to find his lost son, we’re transported to the cross country trek of Charlie and Raymond Babbitt (Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman) in Barry Levenson’s Oscar-winning picture. Self-serving Charlie teamed up with his estranged brother Ray, an autistic savant, not out of compassion or fraternity but to further his own conquest for his father’s inheritance. Along the way, Ray’s disability provides a number of hurdles (he can’t board an airplane, can’t go outside when it rains, can’t be touched) and opportunities (his knack for quick counting does the boys quite a few favors at the blackjack table) alike for Charlie as their travels take them to strange places (backwoods motels, doctors offices, Vegas casinos) and situations ranging from comical to emotionally resonant.
With Marlin and Dory, it’s the same song: Marlin monopolizes on Dory’s unique ability to read human English (and speak a bit of whale, as she’ll proudly boast) as they traverse the realms of sharks, jellyfish, sea turtles, and a school of John Ratzenberger, bounding from moments of laughter and tears all the while. But beyond the surface value similarities, the relationship between Marlin and Dory is reminiscent of that of the Babbitt brothers. Impatient Marlin is at his wits’ end with Dory’s demanding mental state. The biggest hurdle along the way for the duo is Dory’s short-term memory loss, not a mere character quirk in Finding Nemo but a bona fide disorder that prevents her from living independently (when left alone by Marlin towards the end of the film, Dory’s anxieties kick up and overtake her memory altogether, leading her to forget the entire mission she and her fair-weather had just braved).
Alongside a forgiving and accepting Marlin, Dory’s traumas are assauged and her memories bolstered. But we don’t imagine that Finding Dory will do away completely with the trait that defined DeGeneres’ fan favorite character in the first movie. What they should do, instead, is really tackle the issue, diving headfirst into a multifaceted, emotional and intellectual story about living with (and living with someone living with) mental disability. Sounds like a silly venture for a Pixar movie, maybe, but just think of the Toy Story franchise: a trilogy that expanded from “What if toys came alive when we left the room?” to a heartrending allegory about self-preservation, loss, and identity.
Finding Dory has an opportunity to build upon the simplistic ideas that made Nemo a charming one-off feature — to make the characters worthwhile in further episodes, we’ll have to see a deeper exploration of what makes them tick. Marlin is plagued with insecurity, Nemo with a physical disability, and Dory (who, as the title would indicate, is the focal character in the new movie) with a mental disability. And this disability deserves an intricate center stage treatment.
As mental impairment is a subject matter that Hollywood has tackled time and time again, Finding Dory can learn from the example of past greats. Beyond Rain Man, we have a number of other public and critical favorites that can provide example of moving and insightful ways to depict the journey of a mental disability sufferer. A constant among many of these films is the director’s drive to shatter society’s expectations of the spotlit figures — nobody believed much in Forrest Gump’s titular hero at the beginning of the movie, but Tom Hanks’ most memorable cinematic character went on to take part in, if not institute, just about every great event in American history. Ditto Radio, on a much smaller scale: Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed a mentally disabled young man whose spirit brought a small town football team to unity and grandieur.
Dory’s limitations did not keep her from achieving victory in Nemo, but then again we didn’t see the extent to which they anchor her down. Following in the footsteps of uplifting sagas like Forrest Gump and Radio, Finding Dory might look to chronicle the wowing capabilities of memory-loss victims in the same way: perhaps her indomitable zest for life will outweigh her handicap in the sequel’s story, branding Dory with the sort of embrace of self-worth advertised by Hanks’ and Gooding’s pictures.
There are, of course, much less “whimsical” accounts of mental disability in recent cinema: the 2001 movie I Am Sam might have endeared viewers to Sean Penn’s character and invited them to truly understand the complexities of his condition in an unprecedented way, the film didn’t offer the fairy tale ending many might have expected, or hoped for. It might unlikely for Finding Dory to bear to the wills of bleaker realism, but not implausible. Toy Story 3, Up, and Wall-E rank as three incredibly heavy, often dark, movies. In this vein — and borrowing from the attitudes of I Am Sam, of Rain Man, of the “Flowers for Algernon” film adaptation Charly — we might look for a Finding Dory that actually sets standing limitations on Dory. She will never be able to live on her own or even remember things prior to the present hour, it’s a somber state of affairs. Perhaps for a character so enamored, a story this real is what fans deserve?

We have no idea just yet what Finding Dory has in store. Maybe we’ll just find ourselves in another seafaring journey filled with laughs and whimpsers. But maybe we’ll see a real examination of the internal struggle of DeGeneres’ character — that’s how the movie can truly work wonders; Pixar does best when Pixar dives deepest.

“Silver Linings Playbook” review: mental illness plus ballroom dancing equals a madcap surprise

“Silver Linings Playbook” review: mental illness plus ballroom dancing equals a madcap surprise
Alonso Duralde Reuters
7:24 p.m. CST, November 14, 2012
LOS ANGELES ( – Hardcore art-house enthusiasts might remember the 2003 documentary “The Five Obstructions,” in which Lars von Trier has his friend and mentor Jørgen Leth remake one of Leth’s own films several times with different challenges involved. (Shoot it in Cuba with no set and no shot that lasts longer than 12 frames, film it as a cartoon, etc.)

Writer-director David O. Russell (“The Fighter,” “I Heart Huckabee’s”) returns to the big screen with “Silver Linings Playbook,” and his triumph seems all the more miraculous given a set of obstructions that even von Trier might have found excessively difficult:

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Create a romantic comedy about mental illness that also involves ballroom dancing and pro-football fandom. Make Bradley Cooper act rather than letting him coast on his charm. And get low-key, empathetic performances from Robert De Niro (one of the best actors of the last 40 years, and one of the worst actors of the last 20) and Chris Tucker.

Adapting the novel by Matthew Quick, Russell has done all that in an extraordinary balancing act; “Playbook” often surprises, even as it constantly threatens to run off the rails. “This shouldn’t be working,” I kept thinking to myself along the way, “and yet, it does.”

If you’re looking for a realistic portrayal of bipolar disorder or OCD, seek that elsewhere. Characters here are “crazy” in the lovable, recognizable way of mainstream American cinema, but once you’ve accepted that context, there’s plenty to enjoy here.

Cooper stars as Pat, a substitute teacher just getting out of a mental institution after a violent episode involving his wife and her secret lover. Moving back in with his parents Pat Sr. (De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), Pat focuses on getting his wife back, not letting something as minor as her restraining order get in the way.

Pat’s manic episodes find their counterpart in Pat Sr.’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, which he’s managed to camouflage as extreme fandom for the Philadelphia Eagles. (If someone moves the remote, the team will lose!) Meanwhile, Pat’s unhappily-married pals (John Ortiz and Julia Stiles) try setting him up with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who’s had episodes of her own (mostly involving sex with strangers) but is now finding balance in her life through ballroom dancing.

You may guess that Pat and Tiffany, each spinning around in their own strange orbits, come together on the dance floor, but their pas de deux is just one of many things going on in “Silver Linings Playbook,” which also finds room for Dash Mihok’s grumpy local cop (whose sole responsibility seems to be turning up whenever Pat is having some kind of public meltdown) and Tucker as Pat’s fellow inmate with a talent for getting over the wall.

Russell pitches the action at a manic, screwball pace, and the cast is more than up to the task, with Cooper and Lawrence attracting and repelling each other with equal dynamism and talented supporting players making these shouting, unhappy characters into memorable eccentrics.

(Ortiz’s slow burn as a henpecked husband is particularly potent.)

A less talented and less heartfelt filmmaker would have reduced this crew to easily digestible types, shied away from their darker behavior and gone for sitcom-level laughs and learning, but Russell is too smart for such lazy obstructions. He’s crafted a wonderfully odd ode to dysfunctional people trying to make their way in the world, and he knows that their journey would mean nothing without a few black clouds along the way.

Behind the scenes at TCM’s A History of Disability in Film festival

from Atlanta Magazine:
Behind the scenes at TCM’s A History of Disability in Film festival
Posted By: Richard Eldredge · 10/23/2012 8:44:00 AM

It’s not even 11 a.m. on the set of Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz’s living room in Midtown Atlanta and already Lawrence Carter-Long has the movie buff, along with director Sean Cameron and the crew completely charmed. Carter-Long, the public affairs specialist for the National Council on Disability, has flown in from Washington D.C. to co-host TCM’s month-long film festival “The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film.” Carter-Long curated the 21 films in the series and they range from 1946’s post-World War II drama “The Best Years of Our Lives” to Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-winning performance in 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as a psychiatric patient who rebels against the institution’s dire conditions. Nattily attired in a gray formal jacket, Carter-Long is artfully making a case for tonight’s airing of “Charly,” the now-dusty 1968 drama that won Cliff Robertson an Oscar playing an intellectually disabled man who undergoes experimental (and highly questionable by today’s standards) surgery to raise his IQ.

“By programming a month’s worth of these films, TCM is recognizing the population itself, that one in five Americans has a disability in some way, shape or form,” explains Carter-Long. “It recognizes that demographic out there. These films have a lineage. Each one informs the next and they evolve and change as the times change. By putting these films into a festival like this over the course of a month, viewers can pick and choose what they want to see and perhaps place them in a new context. It might be a favorite like ‘An Affair to Remember’ but they maybe never thought about the film from the disability perspective. By grouping them together, they have a different resonance than if they were standing alone.”

For his “Projected Image” co-hosting debut, Mankiewicz clearly did his homework, poring over 2,000 pages of research and reviewing many of the films in the line up. “Re-watching these films and putting them in this context, it completely changes how you look at them,” says Mankiewicz. “The viewer has an opportunity to think about each of these films in a fresh way and that’s the exciting part of what this festival does. It’s interesting to see the progression/lack of progression as we go through the films chronologically, too.”

In 1968 when “Charly” was made, “the r-word” (read: retarded) was still being liberally tossed around to describe the title character. And while it’s cringe-worthy to contemplate in 2012, Carter-Long says that pulling the film out of its 1968 time capsule and blowing the dust off of it is important. “Showing what was happening culturally and what was happening in society is one of the most crucial things we can do with this festival,” Carter-Long says. “Show what was happening at that time and to try and explain why it was happening and put it into context. And also, let’s discuss the evolution since and whether there’s been an evolution or not.”

The festival concludes next week with a late-night presentation of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and earlier in the evening, an airing of director Tod Browning’s still-controversial 1932 film “Freaks,” a film that first gained fame on the midnight movie circuit. “Regrettably, I was only introduced to it only after I began working at TCM,” says Mankiewicz. “I didn’t fully appreciate it. I didn’t totally believe it. I remember thinking, ‘This must be some trick photography. Bravo, Tod Browning in 1932. That guy looks like he doesn’t have any arms or legs.’ I mean, that can’t be for real, right? Basically, I was a fool.”

Explains Carter-Long: “The importance of showing ‘Freaks’ in 2012 is that it takes those conventions of who we’re supposed to identify with and where our sympathies lie and turns everything upside down. Our sympathies aren’t with the buxom blond non-disabled woman. From the beginning, your sympathies are with the freaks themselves. That’s the impact of the film. The audience is rooting for characters who look like what is traditionally the villain in a film. It challenges you to reconsider the outsider.”

“The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film” airs each Tuesday beginning at 8 p.m. on TCM throughout October. For a complete line-up, go to TCM’s website.

‘OC87’: A First Film, Personal And Hard-Won by Andrew Lapin

‘OC87’: A First Film, Personal And Hard-Won by Andrew Lapin
from npr:
‘OC87’: A First Film, Personal And Hard-Won

by Andrew Lapin
May 24, 2012

Bud Clayman is not the sort of person who typically attracts cameras. Pudgy, with a droning voice and a cackle his own father says makes him sound like a chicken, Clayman harbored dreams of becoming a filmmaker in Los Angeles after college — dreams complicated by his Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and depression.

Three decades and several breakdowns later, he’s made his first film: a document of his own struggles with mental illness.

OC87, named for the year Clayman experienced his initial breakdown (and the shorthand he uses to describe his altered state of mind), is one man’s attempt to exorcise his demons.

But it’s not exactly a singular vision. Clayman has difficulty making decisions, and so shares director’s credit with psychologist Scott Johnston and veteran documentarian Glenn Holsten (Saint of 9/11), who keep the camera focused squarely on Clayman.

They alternate interview segments with some inventive scripted sequences, the latter re-creating the internal debates Clayman has when confronted with basic social situations like buses and restaurants.

The film isn’t really about all the hurdles listed in its unwieldy subtitle — The Obsessive Compulsive Major Depression Bipolar Asperger’s Movie — as much as it is about Bud Clayman. Ultimately it’s someone else’s diary. There are many moments where Clayman’s experience speaks to something universal, but other details feel too private, too specific, for our eyes.

We watch Clayman’s first student film, a tour video for his Jewish high school where, strolling through the grounds, he sings the praises of the “confidence” the school provides.

We observe him at a speed-dating event, where he chats about movies with every rotation.
Clayman on the set as subject and co-director of OC87.
Enlarge Fisher-Klingenstein Films

Clayman on the set as subject and co-director of OC87.

And we see his struggles with the film itself, as he argues with his co-directors over his right to lean back in his chair. Over the course of some embarrassingly poor, zoom-happy camerawork — not Clayman’s doing — we rarely leave the man’s side.

This insularity becomes stuffy after a while. Claustrophobia is the point, of course, since Clayman’s daily struggles take place inside his own head. And he has an endearingly wry and self-deprecating on-screen presence, laughing at his disheveled apartment and overstuffed wallet.

Yet as viewers, we may instinctively crave more than what Clayman alone can offer us. Segments where he cedes screen time to others, including the bipolar General Hospital actor and mental-health advocate Maurice Benard, are a relief.

As impressively candid as Clayman is on camera, he’s still holding back, often lapsing into psychology-approved terminology. How close did he come to the edge? How did he spend his years in treatment? Does he think, at the conclusion of this movie, that he’d be capable of directing one by himself? His climactic revelation, a staged showdown with his “darker side” modeled after a Lost in Space episode, is fun but empty, and makes for an unsatisfying conclusion.

More revealing are Clayman’s interactions with his parents. His faithful mother, Lila, selflessly donates her level head to the gargantuan task of cleaning the apartment, while his watch-mogul father, Mort (who reluctantly bankrolled the film), still harbors doubts about the validity of the therapist’s diagnosis. Bud was just “lazy,” Mort insisted when the problems started. The label is telling about the contrasting ways the two men interpret the world, and its quick mention makes for one of the film’s most profound moments.

But Bud’s not lazy, not by a long shot. In OC87 he represents a group of people who are rarely offered any media exposure, and he comes bearing a message of hope rather than just a sob story. He has something valuable to offer, even as we wish there were more like him on screen.

A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method (movie based on stageplay “The Talking Cure”; based on the book A Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein (Vintage) by John Kerr) portrays a complicated relationship between Freud, Jung, and Sabina Spielrein, who initially comes to Jung as a patient while he is working at the Burghölzli Clinic, a psychiatric hospital in Zurich. In traditional mental patient fashion, Sabina, swathed in white, evocative of a sheet restraint, is carried in by coachmen and orderlies.

Sabina is carried in

While she is affecting the traditional gestures of the stereotypical madwoman, Jung introduces himself and suggests “the talking cure” in which Sabina, in a condensed version of the therapeutic timeline, willingly participates, and goes through the stages described in psychoanalytical theory.
Writhe safely

Sabina shortly after being brought to the mental hospital

Jung introduces himself and "the talking cure", then regarded as "a dangerous method", when the alternatives were hydrotherapy, cold sheet packs, full-body restraints...

This included “transference” in which doctor and patient are said to develop erotic feelings for one another. Initially, this being the Victorian/Edwardian age, and Jung having a lot invested in every way with his marriage, he restrains himself from acting upon impulses of this kind with this young female patient who openly discusses sexual situations and is becoming increasingly attracted to him. While we may never know what tilted the balance in real life, in the movie, it is Jung’s discussion with Otto Rank, who inveighs against repression in all its forms, including the sexual, arguing for the free flowing of transference, taking it to its logical conclusion, even if it means violating sexual morality and ethical standards, as a means of transforming the patient and helping them become what they are destined to become, even if it is not necessarily acceptable to the prevailing mores of the time. Of course, the fact that Rank may have developed this theory as a fig leaf for his own conduct, and that all of these pioneers in psychiatry engage in the moist abstruse of twists and turns to justify things that their wives and the larger society around them would find unacceptable, is seen only from afar by the viewer, perhaps it was not as clear to the people of the time and place. While it can be argued that Jung’s engaging in sadomasochistic sex with a sexually frustrated patient who derived guilty pleasure from parental punishments which had a sexual component can be seen as a form of psychodrama, it would have been considered inexcusable had his contemporaries known, and is considered so today. When Jung eventually ended the affair, Sabina voted with her feet for Freud. While it is unknown, and implied as unlikely, that Freud gave her the same sort of attention, it may also be that she’d moved on, in every sense of the word. Both of these great men of psychiatry derived many of their ideas from her observations, but she was not the beneficiary of the same kind of fame they enjoyed: while Jung supervised her dissertation, and had encouraged her to become a psychiatrist herself, both Freud and Jung ran with many of her ideas without giving her credit, and mocked some of her thinking which research has given validity to in the present day.

Freud and Jung discuss Sabina's case in Freud's study

By the end of the movie, Sabina marries another and enters the field of child psychology, independently of what either of her mentors think. She has, in these actions, seemingly attained a sort of closure, afterwards returning to her native Russia to train psychoanalysts there.

Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival

Rendezvous with Madness (RWM) is the world’s first and longest running film festival showcasing films that address issues of mental health and/or addiction. The festival provides a distinct venue for filmmakers to screen their work and has grown into a filmmaker favourite over the past eighteen years.

• To explore the facts and mythologies of mental illness and/or addiction, as presented by Canadian and international filmmakers.

• To facilitate discussions amongst filmmakers and audiences with respect to these cinematic representations.

• To provide filmmakers an opportunity to screen their films that may otherwise not be seen.

• To increase awareness, and advocacy for mental health and addiction issues and concerns.

RWM brings independent Canadian and International film and video to the public. RWM features strong programs that address the facts and mythologies of mental illness and addiction.

Each of the various programs focuses on different themes and includes panel discussions involving the filmmakers, artists and people with professional and personal experience with mental illness and addiction.

Code of the Freaks

Fans of Salome Chasnoff’s previously linked Hollywood Images of Disability (since disappeared) can breathe a little easier now; it hasn’t gone away for good, it’s just being reworked into a full length documentary titled Code of the Freaks.

The Rite

The Rite is notable in its portrayal of a teenage girl whom seasoned exorcist Fr. Lucas describes as demonically possessed, but whom doubting seminarian Michael Kovack sees as a “sick girl” who “needs medication” when, having expressed doubt about the whole concept of demonic possession in the exorcists’ class he is taking in Rome, he is referred to Fr. Lucas by his instructor at the Vatican training course for future exorcists, and invited to observe this particular exorcism.

During the course of the class, Kovack had expressed “reasonable doubt” that persons thought to be possessed, having been described by the instructor as “having periods of lucidity” and reletive normal behavior, could be suffering mental illness, because “paranoid schizophrenics have periods of lucidity, too”.

While taking the course, Kovack meets a female reporter who is also following the course as a means of gathering background information on the subject of Church policy and belief on the subject of demonic possession, and what motivates and drives a man who becomes a priest-exorcist in this day and age. To that end, she follows him as he participates in the course, and his involvement with an individual exorcism and his relationship with Fr. Lucas grows. She has a personal interest in the question of whether certain individuals are “possessed” or “mentally ill”, and how to tell one from the other, because, as she later reveals to Kovack, she has a brother who had been diagnosed as mentally ill who now lives in an institution.

Kovack discovered that the girl was a victim/survivor of incest (her father is responsible for her pregnancy, the reason she is not taking medication) and the girl, impregnated under circumstances, he presumed “clearly didn’t want her baby”, leading to his speculation that with the purpose of harming the fetus inside her, she had swallowed the large, old-fashioned nails she is seen to cough up following the exorcism. However, unlike most mentally ill persons who engage in self-harm, it is made clear that she knows things about Kovack that she could only have gained knowledge of telepathically, which initially seems lost on Kovack, though she refers to specific items and incidents in his life which she could not have possibly known about upon meeting him for the first time and having no knowledge of his background.

When they discuss her case after the exorcism session, Fr. Lucas acknowledges that mental illness may well be part of the picture, but although he claims that he _is_ (also) a doctor (details are not given, nor is his status as such verified in the picture), he refrains from characterizing mental illness as her primary diagnosis or as an alternate explanation for her symptoms, which in his role as a Catholic priest, he characterizes as typical of demonic possession, a separate and distinct phenomena in its own right.

When the girl gets worse instead of better, she is taken to a hospital (presumably a conventional hospital, rather than a “State Hospital”) where she is characterized as mentally ill, and thus given medication and put in 4-point restraints. (Whether the old enameled iron bedstead and cavernous Renaissance-looking building, coupled with modern patient-monitoring equipment is a realistic portrayal of a hospital in Rome, is another story.)

Four-point restraints, as depicted in The Rite.

In yet another mystery that keeps the element of reasonable doubt in her case, she nevertheless manages to suffer sudden “massive internal hemorrhaging” causing both herself and the baby to die, though she had remained physically chained to the hospital bed.

Wheel Chair

“Wheel Chair” is a 1995 Bollywood movie, minus much of the singing and dancing, available on Netflix in the Bengali language with English subtitles. Susmita, a typist, is working late one night when three men attack her in the stairwell with the intent to rape her, causing her to fall and break her neck. Someone calls an ambulance, and the doctors at the hospital she’s taken to decline to do surgery (presumably to stabilize her neck) for fear of affecting the “Vegas” nerve. (Surely they mean vagus. One would hope that a doctor has a good grasp of geography; after all, they’d better know how to locate the islets of Langerhaans.)

Susmita’s head is put into a primitive Hannibal Lechter-type headgear that doesn’t look terribly stable, ostensibly to provide traction. The company Susmita worked for takes responsibility for paying for her care and rehabilitation, and she is brought into the care of Dr. Mitra, who runs a home for “neurological disabilities” and is also a paraplegic himself.

Dr. Mitra

Dr. Mitra agrees to take Susmita as a patient

Dr. Mitra acquired his disability in a car accident in England on his way to a neurology conference, and “somehow found his way” back to India. (It is fortunate that he became a neurologist before becoming disabled, as people with disabilities who want to enter the medical profession often face obstacles and prejudice from medical schools.) The small clinic/home he founded in Calcutta has lost its funding from the government, and the board of directors wants to sell the land to put up a nursing home. Dr. Mitra must balance his time between treating patients, fighting with his own board of directors, and cajoling money from businessmen to keep the home running and the patients fed. He is portrayed as being a professional inspiration to his patients, yet privately he drinks, relies on the assistance of the able-bodied staff for tasks a paraplegic can usually do by themselves, and occasionally wishes out loud for death just as his patients constantly do.

Susmita is wheeled in on a gurney through the men’s ward, where she is frightened by the ogling of the male residents. They are introduced as Nantu, a young man who has been disabled from birth (probably from cerebral palsy, although he’s being treated with Vitamin B):


Nantu sees Amin is making Susmita nervous and shoos him away

Mr. Shatadal, a belligerent older man on crutches who fantasizes about dying and being taken away by a white camel with a golden saddle blanket:

Mr. Shatadal

Mr. Shatadal eyes the new arrival, one of the few female residents

and Amin, a tall, withdrawn, intimidating man who was an astrophysicist before he had a nervous breakdown.


Amin stares openly at Susmita, blocking the path of her gurney

The handsome physical therapist Santu sets to work on the depressed Susmita, who agrees to work at therapy only to regain use of her hands and arms to kill herself. He stretches her limbs and painfully puts her face-down in a hammock when a bedsore begins. One night, against the orders of Dr. Mitra, Santu engages in what he calls “shock therapy”; he slides his hand up Susmita’s thigh under her clothing in order to deliberately remind her of the rape. In a panic, she moves a toe. This is hailed as a breakthrough instead of a violation of professional boundaries, and it fulfills the Disability Movie Cliche and ludicrous ableist conceit that disabled people can be cured by attention from the opposite sex.

The most realistic aspect of the movie Wheel Chair is the agonizingly slow pace of recovery for each resident. By the time Susmita is ready to return home two years after arrival, Nantu has progressed from learning his letters to slow reading (though everyone discourages him from hope of ever having a wife). Amin has displayed anger over conditions in the home, pushing Dr. Mitra over and then returning him to his wheelchair, and later writing an inscrutable equation on a slate. Mr. Shatadal reveals himself to be a self-made man from selling nuts and bolts to the American army at a huge markup, writes a large check to the home, and then suddenly goes blind and dies within minutes.

After Susmita returns to her mother’s home to begin a prescribed regimen of physical therapy and slow hunt-and-peck typing, Santu asks Dr. Mitra of the advisability of marrying her. Dr. Mitra assures him that she will be able to bear children, so Santu declares to Sumitra’s mother that he wants to “take on full responsibility” for her. Susmita is in tears at this… charming proposal, but though she ascribes to the common belief one must be able-bodied to be married she eventually acquiesces, saying that she’ll put down the returning strength of her upper body as capital and work for the rest. Santu and Susmita settle down into a house on a river, where Santu is last seen happily carrying Susmita to a wheelchair on a patio.