When the B.C.–made documentary Family Matters: Surviving the Bipolar Journey, about four local families living with a relative who has bipolar disorder, screened for the first time in North Vancouver on November 2, about 500 people showed up. “It was incredible,” producer Marsha Newbery said by phone. “I’ve seen that there’s a real need in the community for films like this, and that they have the most impact when you can show them to an audience of people who are personally connected to this issue and then they get a chance to actually talk about it.”
The 57-minute film examines how the mental illness, one of the most common in North America, impacts the entire family unit. Issues of denial, guilt and responsibility, codependency, anxiety, strained relationships, and stress are all discussed.
Newbery previously produced the National Film Board of Canada’s 2007 documentary Not Just a Bad Day, about three individuals with bipolar disorder. “When it premiered, we had a lot of comments that ”˜The film is great, but what about the families, like there’s a whole sort of hidden side of mental health that you’re not telling.’ So we decided to tackle that as well.”
Family Matters (which is accompanied by an online community website) will have its Vancouver premiere as part of the Frames of Mind monthly mental-health film series at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que (1131 Howe Street) on November 17 at 7:30 p.m. Dr. Harry Karlinsky, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UBC, will moderate a post-screening discussion with director Mary M. Frymire, whose own mother has bipolar disorder, and documentary subject Melanie McGinnis, whose husband has rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.