Down in a Hole is a feature-length documentary about one man’s attempt to reach out to a friend with bipolar disorder and what he learns in the process: You can’t make sense of an illness that defies logic.
Doug is 35, bipolar, and suicidal. He can’t work anymore. He’s breaking up with his girlfriend of four years. His first attempt at disability benefits has been denied. And his medication isn’t working.
Nathan, a filmmaker and childhood friend of Doug’s, attempts a drastic intervention. He convinces Doug that the two of them should collaborate on a documentary about his condition. It’s a natural fit for Doug, whose first love is acting. In Nathan’s eyes, it will give Doug hope and purpose and produce a fascinating examination of bipolar disorder that could help to serve others.
What begins as a mutual exploration quickly catapults Nathan into a gut-wrenching crash course on the insidious nature of bipolar disorder. Doug begins to openly question Nathan about their friendship and soon becomes exhausted by the responsibilities of production. Some days he feels enthused, while other days he is angry and self-conscious when the subject of bipolar disorder is brought up. During one conversation, Doug tells Nathan "It's so hard having people say they care about you, because to me it's a waste. So if there's any reason I want to be on tape, maybe it's because I want to record my decay."
Instead of scrapping the film, Nathan begins a quest to understand the illness that has turned Doug against him; meeting with everyone he can find who has been touched by bipolar disorder. His journey takes him to a friend who lost a brother to the disorder, experts in the field, an Academy Award winning filmmaker who now leads a support group of friends and family of the mentally ill, and a successful journalist who published a personal essay about her own battle with the disease.
Ultimately, Nathan is forced to recognize that Doug alone will determine his own success or failure. As Dr. Robert Cancro, Chairman of NYU Psychiatry tells Doug, "You have two people who are handicapped. One sits in the chair while the other fights through it. It's really up to you."
Spanning the cities of New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Berkeley, Down in a Hole is filled with interviews of Doug and his family members, Doug’s video diary entries and exceptionally revealing verité footage of the interaction between Doug and Nathan.
Despite the increasing tension that threatens to paralyze both the film and their friendship, Nathan’s attempts to understand a complex illness and reach out to his friend, stands as the beating heart of this film.
While Down in a Hole deals with a weighty subject, it is tinged throughout with humor and bewilderment that helps to dispel many of the old and staid myths surrounding mental illness. Audiences will be moved to reflect upon their own ideas of mental illness and friendship…and the challenge of bridging the gap between the two.
This is a work-in-progress trailer for DOWN in a Hole, a feature length tv & theatrical documentary, currently in progress and seeking completion funding. The 501(c)3 project is fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society. All donations are tax deductible. More info at: http://www.DIAHthemovie.com
© 2009 Nathan Friedkin