Kathy Leichter’s film, ‘Here One Day’, won best Long Documentary and the joint Jury Prize at the 2014 International Film Awards. Kathy tells us about her film and experience at the Festival.
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Here One Day is an intimate, visually arresting portrait of a family coping with mental health and suicide. It is emotionally authentic, honest, and revealing. It is a story that many people can relate to, but even if you or your family has no experience with mental illness or suicide, Here One Day is also simply a film about a family, with all the complexities, challenges, relationships, and dynamics of any family. It’s a story of human beings experiencing life’s struggles and triumphs, losses, and joy and each finding their way.
Specifically, Here One Day is about my mother, Nina, and her experience being diagnosed with what society calls, “bipolar disorder.” The film welcomes us into my mother’s heart and mind through audiotapes that she recorded about her thoughts and feelings and relationships—an audio-diary of sorts that lets her speak for herself in the film, not just be spoken about. The amazing thing about these tapes is that after my mom died by suicide, I didn’t listen to the tapes for 16 years! It was the making of Here One Day that led me to the tapes again when I realized I had eight incredible hours of my mother talking and that they (she) had to be in the film. Here One Day is also about how mental health impacts the family and the stigma that we all carry and that is powerfully silencing out in the world. I believe it is so important to get these stories out into the open. I applaud SMHAFF for doing that. It’s commendable and courageous that the festival brings together such diverse voices and aesthetic approaches from all over the world, who are defining mental health in broad terms, far beyond the labels and the diagnoses, focusing rather on the experiences of the characters in each story.
Here One Day is so personal and up-close that it invites others to open up and to share their stories—of all kinds. It gives them permission. This is how we will change the world: through our stories.
I made Here One Day because I needed to tell this story. I thought of being on my deathbed and being ninety-five and lying there wishing that I had told this story. Yikes! That didn’t look good! I didn’t want to let my fears of really looking within and trying to take what was inside and externalize it hold me back. No, instead I decided to plunge in and go deep.
I began making Here One Day in 2004, nine years after my mother died, not knowing exactly what I was making, but spurred by a huge wave of grief that I experienced when I discovered I was having a second son, and would not (this would be my last) ever have a daughter. After many tears, I figured out that what I wanted was to have a daughter to somehow retrieve my mother through a new mother-daughter relationship and close the circle that had been so traumatically ruptured. Thankfully that was not meant to be. Instead of the daughter, grew this film, a much healthier way to re-visit my mother, to grieve, and to explore her life, what it was like to live with her, and then to lose her. With the help of one of my incredibly talented best friends, Director of Photography Kirsten Johnson (Best Camera, Sundance 2010) and my amazing editor, Pola Rapaport, Here One Day took me on emotional and creative journeys that I never could have imagined. Making this film was an incredibly cathartic experience, which now, as a finished piece not only continues to be incredibly healing for me, but for the many thousands of people I am screening it for in educational and community settings, including film festivals, around the world.
I am deeply honored that Here One Day was selected for SMHAFF and I was astounded to tears and speechlessness when the film won the Jury Prize and Best Long Documentary Awards. As I sat at the Awards Ceremony amongst so many of the ultra-talented filmmakers whose films were selected and it was announced that there would be a Jury prize, I spent the next minutes trying to guess which film it would be. There were so many fantastic films, fresh stories, creatively told with great feeling. I was honored to be amongst such mental health heroes—the filmmakers and the festival staff that make SMHAFF happen. The festival team was so kind and welcoming and fun to be with. They gave us filmmakers many chances to really get to know each other. By the time I left, just days later, we—the filmmakers and festival team-- were all friends. I left SMHAFF feeling like I was part of a powerful gang of mental health warriors, fanning out into the world with our stories to open hearts and minds and inspire change. Thank you SMHAFF!
For more information about Here One Day please go to: www.hereoneday.com.