Personal stories, not education

Listen to this post:

Cynthia, my filmmaker, was talking with some fans of documentary film. When she told one this new project will be focused on artists with brain injuries, here was the response she got:

“Oh! So it’s going to be an educational film?”

Well… not really.

She explained it’ll be a documentary with personal narratives that build a story. She even suggested the person check out “Marwencol” as an example. (Great suggestion, Cynthia! That’s my go-to film for brain injury documentary!)

So why did this conversation feel weird to us?

Because when you say the name of some health condition, illness, disease, disability, disorder, impairment, sometimes a person’s humanity is lost under all that. The person becomes the diagnosis or label they were given. From there, conversations center around illness, loss, pain, consolation, treatment, improvement, and recovery. I’m not saying everyone in society is like this, but it is a common reaction to think that a film about a specific disability will be educational rather than artistic.

I hope this film will enlighten folks but not more than any other documentary on any other topic is meant to enlighten. If I had to boil down the entire thing to one description, it might just be to show how and why the people in this documentary make art. Yes, I chose these people because they have had a brain injury. And I want to definitely highlight the different adaptations and shifts they have had to make to create art.

But at the end of the day, this is a documentary about people.

Like with my other films, I hope this one raises questions and piques curiosity even if we don’t give answers to those questions. What a wonderful feeling it is to know someone is curious about you as a person and not as a list of Frequently Asked Questions.