Dismissed as the “yuppie flu” by some in the media and often misdiagnosed as a symptom of stress, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (a.k.a. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is no figment of the imagination. This is something Jennifer Brea, a journalist and Harvard PHD candidate, learned when she was suddenly struck with the disease. One of 17 million worldwide who now find themselves bedridden and in desperate need of a cure, Brea decided to film her experiences to raise awareness of the seriousness of the illness.
Documenting the daily physical and emotional impact Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Unrest is a moving examination of pain and isolation. Combining interviews with others alongside her own soul-baring testimonials, Brea gives an illuminating look at what it is like to be a prisoner in one’s own body. She not only reminds the audience of the simply gestures which we frequently take for granted, but also how the condition has robbed her of many things that make life worth living. While the interviews with others inflicted with the disease are gripping, it is her self-assessment of the strain on her marriage to famed internet analyst Omar Wasow and the uncertainty of her own future that is truly heartbreaking.
Brea may use Unrest to question the definition of “living” when stuck with such a condition, but the film is not without hope. There are fleeting moments of levity as Brea experiments with supposed cures that she finds on the internet. The film also shows that, despite the ailment, she finds strength and support through her friendships with others afflicted and her husband’s unwavering love. Unrest is a captivating look at a harrowing condition we all need to take more seriously.
Unrest plays Hot Docs on:
Saturday, April 29, 2:45 PM, Hart House
Monday, May 1, 10:45 AM, Isabel Bader
Friday, May 5, 4:00 PM, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema