Brain Storm Film Festival examines mental health issues
One of the ways that Connect —- an organization that is on a mission to destigmatize mental illness, raise awareness of existing behavioral health services and build public support for increased spending on behavioral health in Summit County —- will celebrate Mental Health Month is through the first Brain Storm Film Festival.
The festival, which will host screenings from May 6 through May 18, was conceived by Connect founders Ed and Lynne Rutan. (See story titled "Parkites Connect to raise mental health awareness")
The films will be both documentaries and features, and the festival is done in partnership with the Park City Film Series, the Rutans told The Park Record.
"They are so community and issue oriented," Lynne said. "[Executive director]
Katharine Wang and their board members have been so supportive of what we want to do."
The screenings, which will all take place in the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, are as follows:
The series kicks off with "Infinitely Polar Bear," which is a comedy that premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
Ruffalo stars as a man who suffers from bipolar disorder. After his illness forces him to leave his family and move into a care facility, he attempts to rebuild a relationship with his two daughters and win back the trust of his wife Maggie.
"We wanted to start things off and show something light because we didn’t want everything to be heavy, because the topic is a heavy one," Lynne said.
The heaviness comes in with Paul Dalio’s "Touched with Fire," which was released in January, Lynne said.
"We are so excited to bring this film to Park City," she said. "The film is about two poets who have bipolar disorder and it’s about their struggle with the creativity that comes from mania and the depression that is the other side of things. It addresses the issue of taking the meds that are so essential for treatment, and at the same time to maintain the creativity."
The following film, "The Dark Side of the Full Moon," is about postpartum depression.
"It’s a tough movie to watch, but is important, especially in Utah where we have a high rate of pregnancies and births," Ed said. "We’re going to have a panel discussion that is being put together now."
While the Rutans are looking forward to all of the screenings, Lynne is especially anticipating "No Letting Go."
The film is about a mother who risks everything to save her teenage son who suffers from a debilitating mental illness, Lynne said.
Following the screening, renowned "Anarchist Soccer Mom" blogger Liza Long, author of "The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness," will discuss the film and her struggles with her own son.
"Liza has said that this film could be about her family," Lynne said. "She had struggled with a young son who had violent outbursts and run-ins with the police and it was a scary situation for her and her family and she couldn’t get any treatment for him."
That’s one reason why she started her blog, which she did anonymously until the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, according to Lynne.
"That’s when she blogged a piece titled ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,’" she said. "The first person Adam killed was his mother before going to the school."
In the blog, Long wrote that she could just as well have been Adam’s mother because of the situation with her own son.
"The blog went viral and from that, she wrote her book ‘Price of Silence: a Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness,’" Lynne said. "It’s about stigma about mental health and what it costs in education, legal system and law enforcement. She is so passionate about the subject and we’re lucky she’s coming down."
The last screening of the Brain Storm Film Festival is a documentary called "On the Edge" that was made for KUED by Nancy Green and Sally Shaum, Ed said.
"It was filmed four years ago and surveyed the status of mental health in Utah," he said. "When you look at the documentary today, you ask yourself how have things changed, and the sad answer is in a lot of ways they haven’t."
Sherri Wittwer, the former executive director of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Utah, will moderate a panel titled "How Do We Rewrite the Script?" following the screening, Ed said.
Matt Bates from the Summit County Attorney’s office will also be on the panel.
"Its will be about how to make things different going forward," Ed said. "As you know, there are a lot of people with mental illness who wind up in the criminal justice system," Ed said. "And people are working to improve mental health services in the county.
"Recently, the legislature has adopted some policy changes and set up a framework for shifting funding over to treatment diagnosis from incarceration, because they recognize the cost of keeping people in jail," he said. "But the funding for that change to occur hasn’t been forthcoming."
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Local singer-songwriters will get some moral — and a bit of financial — support through a Nashville Unplugged and O.P. Rockwell songwriter contest.