"..An affecting film, delightful despite the darkness of its subject, it has an unforgettable character at its center. The production’s homemade, slightly tentative quality only strengthens its authenticity."
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Why do we see so many severely mentally ill people on the street, often off treatment and nearly always alone? Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, whose own father, Richard Ruston, has paranoid schizophrenia and at times lived on the street, takes viewers along on a deeply personal journey to reconnect with her estranged father. Can she make sense of the devastation that his illness has caused? Should she resume her childhood role of acting as her dad's doctor, or is caring for him in that way hindering her from truly caring for him?
After years of feeling helpless when her father would come searching for her in psychotic states, Delaney finally decided to become unlisted in the phone book. But now, ten years later, Delaney, as a mother and doctor, feels a pull to reconnect with her father. As the film opens, we meet Richard, a poet and novelist, doing well on a new medicine. And while he is thinking clearer than Delaney has ever seen him, she realizes that her fears of her dad going off therapy trumps all else. What will happen if he goes off treatment? Will doors be closed as has happened in the past?
It's these fears that propel Delaney to explore why it has been so difficult to get mental health treatment for her father, as well as for her patients. Delaney gains insights from others, including her local congressman and psychiatrist, Jim McDermott, who was a practicing psychiatrist in the 1960s when the policies that dictate our current mental health system were formed.
In the hopes of feeling closer to her dad, Delaney struggles to get to know his past and the way in which his illness has impacted their relationship. It is easy for Ruston to recall the shame that her father's behaviors caused her, like when he would come yelling for her on her school campuses. But what was life like for her dad? Medical school taught her the science of his illness, not the experience of it. So Delaney turns to the novel her father wrote during the early years of his illness, when he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Animations of his novel paint a haunting picture of a mind aware that it was slowly disconnecting with the world around him.
Delaney begins to feel a new connection with her dad when, as is often the case with severe mental illness, things change suddenly. As Delaney feared, her dad stops taking his medicine, and then goes missing. What starts as an emotional tale of reconciliation turns into a frantic journey for survival. Ruston's search for her father-combined with her search for answers as to why his care has proven so inadequate-provide both a dramatic story and a probing social commentary.
Unlisted is a soul-searching examination into the nature of responsibility and the
transformative process of reconciliation. While this powerful film deals with a weighty
subject, it is tinged throughout with humor and bewilderment that helps to dispel many of
the old myths around mental illness. Audiences will be moved to reflect upon their own
ideas of mental illness, compassion, and responsibility.
(2009, 68 MINUTES, COLOR&BLK/WHT)
Delaney Ruston, MD
William Haugse, A.C.E
Stephen Thomas Cavit
POST PRODUCTION EDITING
Jim Golingo at Golpost
About the Crew
DELANEY RUSTON, MD (director/producer/writer and editor) Since 1997, Dr. Ruston has produced and directed documentaries dealing with controversial medical themes that have been featured in film festivals, national conferences, distributed to over 100 medical institutions, and broadcast on television. Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia is Ruston's first feature documentary and follows her emotional journey to reconnect with her schizophrenic father after hiding from him for 10 years. Unlisted began as a short film which aired on PBS and was a FREEDIE Award Finalist.
Ruston recently completed the short film, Crisis and Control, which explores a new type of living will for mental health patients. Currently in production is the feature documentary, Where in the World is Mental Health? This film follows the lives of people living with severe mental illness across the globe. Filming in France, China, and India has been completed and additional filming is underway.
Ruston completed medical school at Stanford University, followed by a residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship Medical Ethics at the University of California, San Francisco. Since then, Ruston has divided her time between filmmaking and providing primary medical care in clinics for underserved patients in Seattle.
WILLIAM HAUGSE (additional editing) is the recipient of an Academy Award nomination for his editing on Hoop Dreams. With over 35 years of filmmaking and editing experience, Haugse has contributed to a long list of acclaimed documentaries including, Stevie, Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election, Sunset Story, and The Last Days of Kennedy and King for which he was nominated for an Emmy.
STEVEN OKAZAKI (creative consultant) is the recipient of numerous honors, including an Oscar Award, three Academy Award nominations, a Peabody, and a Primetime Emmy. Okazaki's most recent Academy Award nomination was in 2009 for the documentary, The Conscience of Nhem En. Other acclaimed documentaries include White Light/Black Rain, Black Tar Heroin, Days of Waiting, and Rehab.
GEOFF SCHAAF (cinematographer) has nearly 25 years experience as a cinematographer in feature films and documentaries, earning a total of four Emmy Awards and thirteen Emmy nominations. As Director of Photography, Schaaf has worked on motion pictures and television programs in over 25 countries. Credits also include hundreds of hours of episodic series.
JENNI NELSON (associate producer) is credited for her production work on documentaries including her current work on a HBO documentary about homeless youth. She is the production designer for the PBS series Biz Kid$. Other narrative film credits include Napoleon Dynamite, The Sasquatch Gang, and Moving McAllister.
STEPHEN THOMAS CAVIT (composer) is a Seattle based, Emmy award winning
composer whose work has been featured in numerous Sundance, HBO and PBS films.
Some of his credits include Everything's Cool, The Good Girl, Blue Vinyl, and The
Meaning of Food.
For years I felt conflicted about having disconnected from my father. I told myself that without my contact information my dad would no longer be tempted to come searching for me in a psychotic state, and I could avoid the pain of not being able to get him help. Five years ago I decided to stop hiding. Part of the catalyst for this decision was my growing need to tell my story; a story that while unique in its details is universal in its themes.
Severe mental illness tears families apart, but not for the reasons that make tabloid headlines. Yes, the symptoms of these illnesses can be devastating, but what really tears families apart is their inability to get treatment for their family member. The frustrations and heartache that comes from not being able to get care causes thousands of family members to disconnect. Over the years, the films I have seen about mental illness, have portrayed devoted caretakers, but I had a need to expose the other side of the story, family members who are themselves deeply conflicted by the realities of deciding not to care for an ill family member.
Not only was I propelled to give a new voice to family, but also to give a more typical picture of someone suffering from severe mental illness. The stories we hear in the media focus on a few famous individuals (Van Gogh or John Nash, for example) or a few notorious ones (the rare, but terrifying person shooting at strangers). My dad, on the other hand, represents the more common face of mental illness; a regular guy who wanted a career and a family, but was constantly stymied by his disordered thought process
With Unlisted I wanted to give viewers a background on why getting mental health treatment is so difficult. My hope is that this knowledge will not only help viewers understand why so many people sit untreated on our streets, but why things do not have to stay this way. I hope that viewers will have a foundation from which to take action; be it simply taking a moment to validate the existence of someone living on the streets or working to create a more functional and compassionate mental health system.
Finally, my hope is that after seeing Unlisted viewers will be more motivated to discuss mental illness, for if it is not present in their own family, it certainly is present in a family of someone they know. Greater than any statistic, what most reminds us of the prevalence of mental illness, and the obstacles to treating it, are these conversations.
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