I would like to suggest an event in which I believe NAMI Lansing and the community will be very interested to attend. I have produced a feature film titled A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET revolving around a family dealing with bipolar disorder that will be screening at the East Lansing Film Festival in November. Copied below is more detailed information about the film:
A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET stars 2015 SAG Award-winning actress Taryn Manning (Orange Is the New Black) as a young mother with bipolar disorder struggling with the looming departure of her daughter, the one force of stability in her life. Seventeen-year old Madison Davenport (Noah, From Dusk Till Dawn, and who next plays Tina Fey’s daughter in the upcoming Sisters), gives a breakout performance as a daughter struggling with the decision whether to stay local for college where she can remain the stable rock in her mother’s life, or to detach and go to her dream college across country. Kurt Fuller, Nora Dunn, Kali Hawk, Maddie Hasson, and Carter Jenkins give standout supporting performances.
Authentic Portrayal of Bipolar Disorder
So often in films the portrayal of mentally ill characters are overblown and played to be sensational. That is not what we wanted from our film; it was imperative that Taryn Manning’s performance as Gloria be subtle, nuanced, and most important — authentic. To ensure authenticity, we sought advice from psychiatric experts as well as from those living with bipolar disorder. We studied memoirs written by authors living with bipolar disorder to get a better understanding of how the condition not only affects a person’s inner thoughts, but also how it manifests in her physicality. Linea and Cinda Johnson, authors of Perfect Chaos, an extremely personal and detailed account of Linea’s struggle to survive bipolar disorder and her mother’s attempt to save her, were particularly gracious to speak with director Valerie Weiss and Taryn Manning and provide additional insights into specific thoughts and behaviors Linea experiences living with bipolar disorder and those leading up to her suicide attempts.
Upon watching A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET, Cinda and Linea said:
“We sat together for a long time after watching the film finding our thoughts, our words and drying our eyes. The acting was so, so good . . . Vulnerable, open, honest, wonderful. It wasn’t the illness alone but the illness was woven into the love and fear of a young single mom. It opened up experiences, memories, and old pain that we had all experienced . . . and deepened our own understanding.”
— Cinda Johnson, co-author of Perfect Chaos, the mother in a memoir about a mother and daughter dealing with the daughter’s bipolar disorder
“The movie was so beautiful. I just wanted to tell you about our viewing experience from the perspective of someone who has been there. I do have to admit that at times it was a little difficult for me to watch because it was so accurate. I saw for the first time what my mania looked like from the outside and it was intense and real and painful and glorious. . . . It was deeply touching to know that you really took into account real lives to make this film. I feel that your love and honoring of all those struggling really shows through, and at no point, like so many other movies, did I feel like you were using mental illness to exploit its irresistible strangeness and scariness. . . . Thank you for all your hard work and please tell Taryn that she was amazing and so spot on. At no point did I ever question her acting or behavior. It was so natural and accurate. I really felt as though I was watching myself.”
— Linea Johnson, co-author of Perfect Chaos, the daughter in a memoir about a mother and daughter dealing with the daughter’s bipolar disorder
Linea’s quote touches on another one of the film’s goals. We hope that A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET will help facilitate discussion and help alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness. We focused on character dialogue and action to ensure that the film was a step forward in the conversation, and not in any manner exploitive. In acknowledgement of achieving this goal, Glenn Close’s organization dedicated to the elimination of the stigma surrounding mental illness, Bring Change 2 Mind (bringchange2mind.org), is endorsing A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET because of its truly authentic portrayal of a family dealing with bipolar disorder. Bring Change 2 Mind is partnering with the film to promote it upon release, and to tap its national network of experts and advocates to attend panels and Q&A discussions at select film festivals and special screenings. Bring Change 2 Mind’s executive director, Pamela Harrington, said:
“[This film] is really beautiful and most endearing. It was heart wrenching and beautiful in its authenticity, all without producing stigma against mental illness in the portrayal or the film.”
— Pamela Harrington, Executive Director of Bring Change 2 Mind, Glenn Close’s organization founded to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness
We would love to see you there, and would greatly appreciate if you could pass the word along to anyone and everyone you believe would appreciate seeing the film.