(2-06-23) Please watch the powerful and moving clip from the documentary No One Cares About Crazy People by Gail Freedman, a talented director, producer, and acclaimed documentary maker who hopes to finish the film by year end.
Freedman’s documentary was inspired by Ron Powers’ 2017 nonfiction book by the same name, but the film quickly expanded into a story about multiple families struggling with serious mental illnesses and their tireless efforts to get help for their loved ones.
If you have a family member with a serious mental illness, love someone who does, or have a diagnosis, you can’t help but be moved by the familiar plight of the families and inspired by their gritty determination to improve our mental health care system.
Freedman told me she wants to harness “the power of documentary storytelling as a tool for change – to help galvanize public discussion, awareness and action around our profoundly broken systems of care for those with serious mental illness.” Thankfully, she accomplishes her goal.
Freedman began by interviewing best-selling author Ron Powers, the father of two sons with schizophrenia. Kevin, his youngest son, ended his own life at home just before his 21st birthday. That tragedy thrust Powers and his wife, Honoree Fleming, along with their surviving son Dean, who continues to struggle with the illness, into what Powers described as the “sub-nation” of those with serious mental illnesses.
“The madman is a man, in effect, without a country,” Powers said. “Certainly without a country that gives a damn whether he lives or dies, as long as he just stays the hell out of sight.”
As seen in the above clip, Freedman next turned to Mark Rippee, who was psychotic, blind, and homeless on the streets of Vacaville, Ca., despite his twin sisters’ fierce and tireless advocacy for him. Before he died, I posted a blog about him last year written by his sister, Linda Rippee Privatte. Freedman’s footage of his sisters walking with him on the streets, watching him wash his blind and grimy face with a jug of water, and listening to them tell the county board of supervisors that Mark had been arrested more than a 100 times without ever getting any meaningful help is both heartbreaking and infuriating.
Freedman focuses on the Burgos family clan, an African American/Latino family in Northfield, Ct., where both teenage daughter Aydia and father Carmelo deal daily with their diagnoses. Carmelo’s and Aydia’s symptoms both surfaced during their childhoods, giving viewers an intimate and ongoing look at how a family is facing the ongoing challenges that mental illnesses create.
Having well-established family struggles, Freeman zeros in on a growing national grassroots reform movement spearheaded by family members, such as Teresa Pasquini, and Dede Ranahan, both familiar names to readers of this blog. Even after his death, D. J. Jaffe continues to advocate, appearing on film to raise questions about why we must wait until someone becomes dangerous before helping them.
Another determined advocate is Taun Hall, the mother of Miles Hall, who was killed by police in Walnut Creek, California, on June 2, 2019. Hall’s saga is another sobering example of how families have no one else to turn to for help except the police only to have those calls end tragically. Because of Hall’s tireless advocacy, California Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan introduced The Miles Hall Lifeline & Suicide Prevention Act AB 988 in 2022 in the state legislature. It passed, authorizing trained professionals to respond to 988 mental health calls.
The documentary is following major, ongoing reform efforts in the California legislature, including Gov. Gavin Newsom’s CARE court initiative and bills spearheaded by State Senator Susan Eggman, who appears in the documentary.
“We must not look away from our mentally broken brothers and sisters until we have inspired or shamed our country into facing them and giving them sanctuary,” Powers told Freedman.
The documentarian added, “For the sickest of our fellow citizens – sanctuary – remains largely unattainable. That’s not because we don’t know what works, but because we seemingly lack the sense of urgency and/or political will for wholesale reform. Models of what’s needed exist, and we plan to show some of them in my film.”
Continuing, Freedman explained that the purpose of the documentary “is to create a sustainable impact towards addressing the root causes of this national crisis. Our film humanizes the face of serious mental illnesses with a small cast of memorable families, and lays bare the system’s failings with an emotional, as well as intellectual, wallop. Equally important is the documentary’s depiction of the ardent activism of an emerging coalition of comrades whose number and impact are on the rise. COVID has brought mental health challenges to the public’s attention more than every. But the sickest and neediest were just as desperate before, and their plight still receives scant notice. Our goal is to change that.”
While the finish line is in sight, Freedman needs help in raising funds – more than $100,000. She is seeking help from philanthropic groups and other individual donors and asking your help in spreading the word about this amazing documentary. All gifts, grants and donations are 100% tax-deductible. From Freedman: “We need your help. This film won’t happen without your support. Our team has been working since late 2019 (pre-COVID lockdown) to get us up and running. Now we’re back at it and full speed ahead. Click here to learn how you can get involved!”
You can reach her at Crazy People Productions LLC. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an important documentary that deserves a wide audience.
More About Gail Freedman: A one-time aspiring concert pianist, Gail Freedman abandoned the stage for the screen many years ago, with brief stops in academia, government and health care along the way. It hasn’t exactly been a planned migration, but in 25 years as an award-winning filmmaker, she has produced, directed and written dozens of documentaries on a wide range of subjects, through her former company, Parrot Productions. She has also taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Among her films: Hot to Trot, an award-winning feature documentary inside the fascinating but little-known world of same-sex competitive ballroom dance – an idiosyncratic attack on bigotry, called “stirring and impressive, warm & involving, with unique heft & vitality” by the Los Angeles Times; and Making the 9/11 Memorial, a primetime special for The History Channel, which aired on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, when the Memorial opened.
Other notable films, among many, have included Breaking the Silence Barrier (cognitive disabilities); Where’s The Cure? (breast cancer activism); Generation Rx (the opioid crisis); Lessons for the Future (public education); Giving While Living (philanthropy); and A Forever Family (Annie E. Casey Foundation). Her creative output encompasses independent projects, as well as extensive work for PBS, network television, cable, syndication and the Internet, along with educational and non-profit films. She was also Executive Producer of the 13-part PBS series, World@Large with David Gergen, as well as producer of the indie feature (and world’s first hyper-linked movie), The Onyx Project, starring acclaimed actor David Strathairn. Early in her career, Gail worked at both CBS 60 Minutes and ABC 20/20.