Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Manic’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2017, Movies by - April 27, 2017
Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Manic’

There is a lot of stigma and ignorance regarding mental health issues.  Manic, a new documentary from director Kalina Bertin, aims to shed some light on the realities of living with a mental health diagnosis, as well as, caring for loved ones with chronic mental illnesses.

The film revolves around the directors family, specifically her brother, sister and father who all suffer from bipolar disorder, which causes mood fluctuations from low depression to high mania.  At the hub of the family is the father, shown in photos and home video footage and remembered in interviews from friends, family and followers.

His story is interesting not only because of his disorder but because his long untreated mania led him to found a religious cult, become a prolific womanizer and father dozens of children.  His story is as dramatic as any fiction film and it ends in a place much darker than I anticipated.

The part of the film that focuses on two of his many children is a much more typical depiction of bipolar disorder.  It shows the day to day struggles as they grapple with their symptoms and try to live their lives as normally as possible.  It’s a grim picture but one that demands to be seen.  In that respect it is an important film which does an excellent job illuminating the realities of mental illness.

Where the film loses its way a little bit is in the moments that are manufactured by the filmmaker herself, like when she leaves a memorial wreath for a deceased love one, but that should not diminish the films power or achievement – a deeply personal story of a family ripped apart and laid bare for the world to see in an effort to facilitate increased understanding and decreased stigma.

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