Wednesday, October 17, 2007

6 days and counting...questions remain

The cable television premiere of A SUMMER IN THE CAGE is right around the corner on Sundance Channel at 9pm on Monday, October 22, 2007. A DocDay premiere.

http://www.sundancechannel.com/films/500252338

I have to say I am bit nervous, excited and curious. I wonder what will be the the response by the public audience. I wonder how mental health professionals will react to the film. I wonder how Sam will respond, if he watches it.

Sam's mother and sister have seen A SUMMER IN THE CAGE and have been outrageously supportive and generous. But we all think about Sam in this, even as we are trying to use the film as a jump off for advocacy. The conundrum that the film could provide some community and relief for those afflicted and their families, but not Sam weighs on us.

This dilemma takes me back to some of the questions this film raised for me in the first place...when do you turn the camera off? I still am not sure how to answer that.

We had a screening of the film at Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan sponsored by the IFP. After the screening, there was a Q&A and I was asked how the making of this film will shape my approach to documentary filmmaking in the future. I said and felt that I would need to be even more fierce in the future. Again, from a filmmaking standpoint there is no question to that assertion. Yet these are still human stories being told and respect for them is imperative. I still have not resolved these questions.

24 comments:

dmbroberts said...

OMYGOD - WOW! We just saw Summer in a Cage and it left me with chills. I loved the intimacy of it as well as the raw emotion at the very end - even though it was hard to see and hear. It was very powerful. Congratulations, Benjy!
Love, Diana and Craig

reddog1473 said...

Just saw Summer in the Cage, Amazing! You captured an inside perspective of mental illiness. I came with my own thoughts what mental illness was trully about but as the documentary progressed and neared the end I realized how overwhelming and debilitating this illness is. Thank you Matt for opening your life to us and thank Ben for taking the time to shoot this documentaty.

Anna Mommy said...

I was just flipping through my guide and happened on this film on Sundance. Without any intention to watch the whole film, i flipped on Summer in the Cage and could not get up or turn off the channel. This movie told the story of a friend dealing with, but mostly witnessing, a friend's battle with manic depression. I can relate and I'm amazed at how well Sam captured the helplessness he felt. Thank you for putting this out there. I've never posted a blog and I rarely go search the net on a subject i've just watched a movie about on tv, but this is special. How cool is it that i just happened to catch the premier?! Guess it was meant to be. You really moved me. Thank you.

lmc said...

Powerful Documentary Ben...this film was so intimate and left me wanting so much to have the "Hollywood Ending" you and Sam spoke of...The reality of it is knowing how this disease can be an endless rollercoaster ride. Fabulous work Mr. Selkow...Thank you for bringing light to a disease that isn't spoken about nearly enough.

Deank812 said...

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The documentary moved me beyond words. I too have struggled with Bi-Polar. My website is above for anyone who needs to know the struggle that we go through. But this film made me cry harder I ever have. I heard the sorrow, frustration, pain, agony, happiness etc that is Bi Polar like I have never heard it presented before.

clarissa said...

Summer in the Cage is a terrific film. We just watched it on Sundance this afternoon. At first I thought Sam was a very normal guy dealing with the ups and downs of life and manic depression with moments of surpising grace. I thought maybe if he didn't call his mother so much, he could start making decisions on his own. But then the stealthy, silent anger of his condition started to surface in the middle of the film. The phone call Sam makes to the Ben really made me believe that although he could haul himself back from suicide, he may never be cured. I felt incredible sadness for Sam. He seems like the All-American guy, what courage he had to go on camera to show us his life. There was a certain amount of suspense towards the end, because you hope that Sam makes it out of the hospital.

Kim said...

I just watched your excellent documentary and actually checked out this site hoping for updates on Sam's situation. My dad was psychotic for many months before his death, so the fear you felt hit a nerve with me. You love the person, but just the same you are afraid to check your voicemail, much less answer your phone. I hope that Sam can come to terms with the many things he has lost and trudge on. I thought bi-polar disorder was a "treatable" disease, but your doc has shown me the truth. Keep up the good work.

rlmcc said...

I happened upon this film yesterday, recorded it and just finished watching it (about 5 a.m. pacific time.) I am in my 50's and have struggled with bipolar disorder for at least 30 years. I fall into the "Bipolar 2" category; I suffer intense depression but my manic phases don't rise to the level of psychosis.
.
My comments:
...I found the film gripping and compelling. At times it was hard for me to listen to/watch during Sam's most intense moments of both depression and manic delusion.
...I most wanted to tell Sam to go easy on himself. I saw him continually looking for that Hollywood ending, get over the "hump," try to get his life back on track. None of this is bad, it's just that everything is subjective. When one is manic but not psychotic one believes he/she can accomplish anything; when one is depressed one feels certain everything sucks. The reality is somewhere in the middle.
...If I could say one thing to Sam it would be don't give in to the temptation to believe you are a failure or worthless. I still do this all the time...I look at what I didn't accomplish and call myself a slacker when the reality is more complicated: it's a mix of me, my personality, my personality affected by bipolar illness and my perceptions or mental filters completely affected by bipolar illness. It's like putting filters over a camera lens...you know what you put there to get a certain effect, but bipolar illness has slipped in a few more on the sly. You think you are seeing reality, but you aren't and you never know exactly how accurate or wildly inaccurate your perceptions are.
...The other thing I wish I could tell Sam is that he has been thrown a huge curve ball. He expected his life to go a certain way; a bipolar spanner has been thrown into the works. It's unjust, he did nothing to deserve it. The cards life has dealt him are radically different than what he thought he would have. The challenge is to accept this hand, live with it, make something of it. You don't have to save the world, either! What I fall back on is creativity, art. Lately I've returned to crayons on white paper.
...So, to Sam: Never, ever give up on yourself. Love yourself as much as possible. You are immensely valuable and worthwhile, even in the midst of depression or manic delusion. Take those meds! Find a psychiatrist or psychologist you trust and stick with therapy. The stress of bipolar illness is more than enough to justify therapy. An objective professional can also help you tell when you are heading toward derailment. I have been greatly helped by a gaggle of psychiatrists and LCSW's over the years.
...To Ben Selkow and all who made "A Summer in the Cage" (including Sam and his family): Thank-you for this film.

Rose said...

Just saw this tonight. Wow! Riveting! This isn't just about mental illness, and it also how it impacts lives surrounding those who have it. Not just the relatives, who probably (?) are more patient with it than those outside of the family.

I think it was/is a difficult position for you to be in as a friend/film maker. So much entangles this relationship. Where does one draw the line? Or don't you?

My best friend was diagnosed with schizophrenia when we were both in 8th grade. I knew she had problems, but I really didn't get the scope of them -- until she had a breakdown. She was hospitalized for having threatened to kill our gym teacher. Too long to explain.

Over the years, I dealt with her own issues about her father. He had suffered from manic depression FOREVER. They lived down the street from us. One day, her father pulled a gun on his wife and kids. Threatened to kill them. My friend called me. My father called the police. It ended without physical harm to anyone.

My friend was institutionalized for MANY years. I went into some really TOUGH wards with the strictest of security. It was a scarey thing for my THEN 16 yo self to be involved in. After about four years, she was readying for discharge. But the doc would not allow her to return to her parental home as he felt it would undo her accomplishments.

My friend roomed in my mother's house for several years. But she was never quite right. Eventually, I realized that the friendship was taking a toll on my own mental health (those phone calls and all else). I did what I felt I had to do at the time and severed ties with her. Maybe I was just too young at the time to handle it properly.

Ben, I'm just saying that I think I get it from your perspective of how dealing with this saps your energy. I also get why Sam was angry (albeit rather inappropriate in his threats, etc.) about the whole film thing. I think he was conflicted about putting himself out there. I think he felt obligated (as he said) to do it b/c he f*cked up your original basketball film. In the end, I think he felt exploited and trapped by the film project. I think you own some of that, but I also think he was a little skewed on his perspective.

I'm glad you didn't cave in and give him money. That would have enabled him (there sure seems to be THAT "woe is me" kind of manipulation going on there). I'm glad he went into the hospital. I hope he is doing better.

Of course, the great desire is for the "happy ending." He'd buck up; get a job; and take his meds on a regular basis. Maybe we need to redefine what consists of a happy ending. He is alive. He sought treatment voluntarily. His mom is unconditional in her love for him. And it is so POWERFUL that the tragedy of his own father's death is something that I hope (believe) keeps him from taking his own life -- even when it feels like the only way to stop "sharing the room" with bipolar disorder.

Kudos to you, Ben. Great job!

gramma pearl said...
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Elphaba said...

I'm never seen myself reflected more accurately than in the mirror of Sam. There are obvious differences, of course, since we're not the same people at all, but the base of the condition is there in its entirety. Sam's description of sharing a room with his condition may have been the single most telling description I've ever heard about living with this problem. It almost gave me hope. But even with medication, being bipolar never ends. It's relentless. You have to be on top of managing it every moment of every day because even one lapse can be fatal.
There really couldn't have been a happy ending to such a film, but I am glad that there wasn't an obvious end, because that's what I feared most in watching it. The most anyone can do is get through each moment of every day the best we can and live to battle again tomorrow. I think that's the message.
Thank you for bringing more accurately to light a subject that has never been to my satisfaction told before with any measure of reality. Maybe if more people see through the eyes of Sam and I and hundreds of others who deal with being bipolar on a regular basis, they'll have a better understanding of us.

And if Sam is around... Well, just let him know that he's not alone and thank him for being brave enough to allow this film to happen. It's one thing to spill your guts in therapy, it's another completely different thing to do it front of your friends. And it has helped. It means none of us are alone.

Many Thanks,
Steve

veronica said...

Ben, thank you for documenting this struggle. My husband's family suffers from this illness on both sides and as I write this I am holding my 8 lb baby hoping that she and her sister will be spared.

I can understand why it was hard for Sam to allow himself to be filmed through his pain but it was good to see it documented for others to see and hopefully understand better. If there was a flaw, it was that the side effects of the drugs weren't mentioned as a reason why compliance is so hard.

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augustinas said...

I love summer events. ativan

exxxie said...
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J. Andrew Lockhart said...

Absolutely amazing film! Watched it yesterday and still can't get it out of my mind. Wish I knew what happened to Sam.

J. Andrew Lockhart said...

Is there another film about him?

Unknown said...

This is a powerful film and one that I show to many of my friends, especially those that do not understand the challenge many people diagnosed with bipolar or any other mental health disorder faces in everyday life. A lot of people are not sensitive to the suffering induced by mental health disorders. People who are diagnosed with a mental illness are usually quick to learn that many people simply write the disorder or disease off as a weakness or character trait. The fact that when most people hear the term bipolar, they think of someone with anger issues, makes it a huge problem for someone with the disorder. They have to hide their disorder to avoid the stigma. Many have no idea that bipolar is an intensely complicated neurological disorder that has the ability to truly wreak havoc on a person's life. Thanks for the film. It is an amazing tool for mental health advocacy.

sandyshore said...

I see I am not the only one who wants to know how Sam is doing. FEB.2014. Please give us some answers. If you know how sam is doing please send me an email. sandy2035@att.net. I really want to know.

Faithful Strides said...

I would really like to know how Sam is doing as well. Please let me know. Awesome film. I lived through much of this with my moms mental illness struggles. triciarep5232@gmail.com

Faithful Strides said...

I would really like to know how Sam is doing as well. Please let me know. Awesome film. I lived through much of this with my moms mental illness struggles. triciarep5232@gmail.com

kim said...

How is Sam now???????

kim said...

Did you ever hear back about how Sam is now?

kim said...

Have you heard back about how Sam is now?