Brainstorm Film Festival gives visceral insight about mental health
All screenings are free to the public
Film takes the old saying “a picture paints a thousand words” to exponential possibilities.
Shauna Wiest, executive director for CONNECT Summit County knows this and that’s why the nonprofit, which raises awareness and provides resources for mental health to take away the stigma of mental illness, will host the Brainstorm Film Festival this month.
The festival is a of smorgasbord of events that celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, Wiest told The Park Record.
“In addition to all of our panelists and speakers that we have scheduled through May, we feel that film can convey a message about mental health that can’t be captured by a speaker,” she said. “There is a power to film, and this is one reason why we program this festival.”
The festival will feature free film screenings at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium.
The schedule is as follows:
- “Hope Lives: Preventing Teen Suicide in Utah,” by Frank Feldman, 6 p.m., May 9
- “God Knows Where I Am,” by Jedd and Todd Wider, 6:30 p.m., May 11
- “Alzheimer’s Every Minute Counts,” by Elizabeth Arledge, 6 p.m., May 16
- “Dying in Vein: The Opiate Generation,” by Jenny Mackenzie, 6 p.m., May 25.“We wanted to select films that reflected the current times and covered the most important topics, so that’s why we have films about opiate addiction, Alzheimer’s, teen suicide,” Wiest said.
“Hope Lives: Preventing Teen Suicide in Utah” looks into the Utah Department of Health’s 2016 report of the rise in suicides among the state’s 10- to 17-year-olds.
The film highlights three stories: a promising young athlete who took his own life when he wasn’t admitted to the colleges he wanted; a young man, now in his late 20s, who talks about his suicide attempt as a teen and the relief he felt when he survived; and a young transgender teen who survived her suicide attempt, which reaffirmed her desire to live.
“The teen suicide rate in Utah is one of the highest in the nation,” Wiest said. “This film addresses this.”
The next film, “God Knows Where I Am,” which is being presented with the Park City Film Series, had an impact on Wiest when she first saw it.
“It’s about a woman (named Linda Bishop) who suffered bipolar disorder and it kind of explains how society treats adults who have mental illnesses,” Wiest said.
“She released herself from the hospital, wandered off and ended up dying alone in a farmhouse.”
Wiest said the filmmakers addressed the story in a beautiful and powerful way.
“The filmmaker changes lenses as the woman gets more sick, so it’s an interesting take on the situation,” she said.
“Alzheimer’s Every Second Counts” is a brand-new PBS documentary and addresses another important topic: dementia.
“There are now more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, including one-third of everyone ages 85 and older,” Wiest said. “This is an epidemic. It’s one of the most critical public health crises that faces America.”
The number is projected to rise by more than 55 percent by 2030 and by 2050, it is estimated that 7 million people ages 85 and older may develop Alzheimer’s.
“This film talks about what Alzheimer’s does to the person, but also the impact it has on caregivers,” Wiest said. “It also talks about the doctors and scientists who are working to find a cure.”
The last film of the Brainstorm Film Festival, “Dying in Vein: The Opiate Generation,” will be screened twice.
In addition to the public screening on May 25, the documentary will be screened for students on May 23 at Park City High School.
“Students will have to get their parents to sign a waiver in order for them to see it, because it is pretty graphic,” Wiest said. “We will have the filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie and school counselors on hand during the screening.”
“Dying in Vein” follows people who are addicted to opiates.
“Opiate addiction is another crisis in America, and I have never seen, personally, a film more powerful that visually shows what goes on in addicts’ minds as they are inject,” Wiest said. “This film looks into the struggle of not having money to enter a rehab facility. While some people in the film have parents who will pay for rehab, others don’t.
“Jenny filmed this in Salt Lake City, so it brings to the forefront the things that are going on around here.”
Each screening will feature post-screening panels that will give audience members opportunities to participate in Q&As.
“Some of those panels will include doctors, addiction specialists and other professionals in the mental health field,” Wiest said.
Some of the panelists will include Dr. Douglas Gray, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah; Kate Nederostek of the Alzheimer’s Association; Roy Parker, executive director of the Summit Recovery Foundation; and Brian Higgins, executive director of Create Reel Change, a nonprofit that incorporates film, stand-up comedy and visual arts to create community awareness of mental health issues.
“We will also provide handouts with resources, because we just don’t want to show the films and immerse the audiences in these stories and leave them without any additional information,” Wiest said.
Wiest, whose son suffered from mental illness, came to CONNECT Summit County through a presentation last year.
“I went to my first meeting and it was a time when my son was in the throes of his illness,” she said. “I felt very alone and overwhelmed.”
Wiest, a former attorney, attended the meeting and sat in the far back.
“I was impressed by the caliber of the speakers and the professionalism, warmth and openness of those who were there,” she said. “I felt I was with my peers and that no one would judge me.”
The experience spurred Wiest into action.
“I just kept going to more events and moved from sitting in the back to sitting in the front row,” she said.
She also reached out to CONNECT founders Ed and Lynn Rutan and asked about their website.
“They didn’t have one, so I worked with Jim Whitney of Whitney Designs to build one (www.connectsummitcounty.org),” Wiest said. “After that, I became vice president of CONNECT, and then Ed and Lynn approached me and asked if I could be executive director.
“Ed and Lynn are the people I would love to emulate, so it’s a gift for me to work with them.”
The Brainstorm Film Festival will run throughout May. All screenings are free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.connectsummitcounty.org.
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Park City Film’s in-person screenings will include a string of Academy Award-nominated films.