2003, TRT 96 minutes, DV
Distributed by Video Data Bank (vdb.org)
STARRING: Stephanie Barber, Lori Connerley, Bruce Stater, Jenny Bass, Dave O’Meara, Kelly Mink, Dave Andrae, Paul Druecke, Nick Frank, David Crane, Greg McCain, Dan Sutherland, Anne-Marie Alward, Carl Bogner.
CREW: Director, writer, producer: Jennifer Montgomery
Director of Photography: Daniel Peltz
Assistant Camera: Peter Barrickman, Austin Alward
Sound: Didier Leplae
Grip: Renato Umali
Assistant Director: Jennifer Geigel
Editor: Jennifer Montgomery
Assistant Editors: Craig Marsden, Carolina Pfister
Threads of Belonging depicts the daily life of "Layton House," a fictional therapeutic community, where doctors live with their schizophrenic patients. The characters and events of Layton House were drawn from writings of the anti-psychiatry movement , whose most famous proponent was R.D. Laing. In this film we see experimental therapies, power struggles, and the individual arcs of mental illness converge, as a community struggles to understand itself and determine its destiny.
Threads of Belonging was made out of an interest in the alternatives to institutionalization offered by the therapeutic community. I also felt that the idealism and politicization of madness spawned by R.D. Laing and his circle were due for reconsideration. The film was shot in a documentary style with digital video, and combines staged reenactment (in this case, based on case histories) with improvisation. Both cast and crew lived together in the house where we filmed, and so the dynamics of a real community came to bear on the fictional one of "Layton House." It is one of the film's strategies to foreground the troubled relationship between the way actors "perform" madness and the way real insanity can itself resemble a performance. Also, there is an inherent sadness in the suffering of the patients and the failed idealism of this kind of intentional living. In preparation for the production of Threads of Belonging, "patients" were given case histories and background writing, and paired with their "doctors" to develop their roles. Very few scenes were scripted. The film was both produced and acted by local artists and filmmakers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thus Threads of Belonging is also an homage to the thriving, resilient community that I found there. JM
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