Archive for the ‘Mental Illness’ Category


‘Precious’ Wins at Toronto International Film Festival

September 22, 2009


Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Adding already to it’s big wins at Sundance and Cannes, Precious took home the “Cadillac People’s Choice Award” at the Toronto International Film Festival, making it a shoe in for a best picture nomination at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.  Award buzz aside we here at TMS are more excited about the raw portrayal of the intersections of poverty and abuse that plague far too many children, particularly those in Black and Brown communities. Trust me…I’ve spent my fair share of time in foster, group homes, and residential treatment facilities to tell you how these issues impact the psychosocial development and more importantly, shape the global outlook of a child.  To use the term “troubled” is an understatement.

Lee Daniels and Gabourey Sidibe at Sundance

Lee Daniels and Gabourey Sidibe at Sundance

TMS appreciates films that are personal to the artist and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, ‘Precious’ director, Lee Daniels explains the passion behind the project:

“When I reflect on it, on why I did this movie, it has a lot to do with my youth, what I witnessed, and that girl who came to my door at 3 o’clock on a summer afternoon when I was 11,” he says. “But it also has to do with the food I was eating, the pork, the chitlins, the cockroaches on the walls, the mice we’d throw bread at, it’s a combination of all that was.”

The girl was a 7-year-old neighbor named Angie and the moment was a seminal one for the director. Daniels remembers opening the door of their West Philly apartment to find this already morbidly overweight child, naked, crying, trying to cover herself with her hands, bloody welts raised on her back and arms by an electrical cord. The memory was profound, the words, “Mommy beat me,” haunted him, that and the fear he saw in his own mother’s eyes. “I remember my mother on her knees in the corner praying, and me thinking, ‘Where’s God?’ “

When, years later, he read “Push,” those images, long suppressed, rose up. “The book evoked the same feelings — I could smell every scent, I could see the texture of the walls, I was shaking. Shaking. It was like family, I knew it intimately, but I didn’t know whether I wanted the story told.”

Can’t wait to see this one.  I’ve already got at least 3 Siggy’s waiting to crown it with.  ‘Precious hits theaters in November.  Peep the official trailer below.


Music as a Healing Agent in The Soloist

May 2, 2009


To describe this fillm  as “mesmerizing” or “inspirational” only scratches the surface of what I experienced while watching the story unfold.  A touchingly raw portrait of the denizens of Los Angeles’ Skid Row The Soloist is the true story of the friendship between Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) a homeless and mentally ill musical prodigy and Steve Lopez, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.  While prowling through the streets of L.A. in search of a story for his column, Lopez encounters a psychologically disocciative Ayers playing a violin in the park and is taken by his intelligence, politeness, and talent (Ayers plays  the violin on two strings).  As Lopez investigates the reasoning of how a gifted musician transitions from a prestigious musical education at Julliard to homelessness his fascination makes him a permanent fixture in Ayers’ life.

What follows are scenes in which Lopez  attempts to connect Ayers with community resources and people that can provide housing and psychiatric services.  In between are  flashbacks of Ayers’ upbringing, relationship with his family, and the onset of his auditory hallucinations while in his early twenties at Julliard.  As Lopez focuses on solutions he becomes frustrated by Ayers’ bizarre behaviors, beliefs, and unwilligness to cooperate.  However it is Lopezes minimal understanding about schizophrenia and the all-too-common dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness that frustrate him the most.  Is medication and counseling enough or is Ayers his peers incapable of healing via traditional therapeutic mediums?


The less Lopez focuses on fixing Ayers’ mind and encourages his talent Lopez understands what it means to be a better person, friend, and husband.  While Ayers certainly would benefit from housing and psychological support his problems are beyond what Lopez or any specialist can do for him.  At this particular moment in his life, Ayers’ therapeutic outlet is his music.  Schizophrenic or not Ayers is more than his past diagnoses but rather a gifted cellist who just happens to enjoy the acoustics of the underpasses and streets of Los Angeles.  All he needs is someone to look beyond his mental state and meet him at his level.  Sometimes being a friend is just enough. 

I’d be surprised if anyone left the theater without feeling a tug on the heart strings (no pun intended).  A cellist during my adolescent years, the character that moved me the most  is the soundtrack.  Music, very much like film, can too provide an outlet for healing and growth.  This message is brought to you in memory of my favorite “Golden Girl”,  Bea Arthur.  Thank you for being a friend.