The Artemis Rising Foundation recently awarded Sandra Luckow ’87, a lecturer and critic in film production in the School of Art, a grant of $150,000 to $250,000 to complete her documentary “That Way Madness Lies.”
Focusing on her brother Duanne’s experience with paranoid schizophrenia, the film uses his vast collection of iPhone video clips to chronicle his “progressive descent into madness.” According to Luckow and Regina Scully, founder and CEO of the Artemis Rising Foundation, “That Way Madness Lies” differs from other documentaries about mental illness in that it tells the story from the perspective of those around the person suffering and gives audiences a window into the world of untreated psychological trauma. The documentary, begun in 2012, remains an ongoing project, and the grant funds — awarded this past December — are intended to help Luckow finish her film. Scully said the Artemis Rising Foundation plans to submit “That Way Madness Lies” to some of the United States’ best-known film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival and the Athena Film Festival in New York City.
“We look for storytellers that have the most authentic voice, that have the commitment to the social advocacy and social-action campaigns that are sure to follow many of these films, and that are interested in making real social change,” Scully said. “The reason why Sandra Luckow is the filmmaker we chose is that she perfectly fits in all these criteria.”
When she first encountered her brother’s video clips, Luckow said, she was “scared” of the material and unsure exactly what she should do with it, so she approached Larry Davidson, a professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine.
Davidson explained that the clips likely show Duanne experiencing paranoid delusions and “hearing voices talking to him,” adding that the film’s use of original footage provides a very real account of such moments, which are relatively common among sufferers of schizophrenia.
“If you have never had those experiences yourself or with a loved one, they can seem quite alien and ‘crazy,’” Davidson said. “But they are very real, and the movie portrays that.”
Alongside its firsthand depiction of mental illness, “That Way Madness Lies” also shows the difficulties encountered by an individual forced to navigate the mental health system, offering a unique perspective on the system as a whole and thoroughly exposing its deficiencies and contradictions. Luckow added that the documentary opens a dialogue on the legal and moral dilemmas surrounding mental illness, especially as they pertain to ideas about consent.
In particular, Luckow said, the decision to include her brother’s personal footage in the film did not come without controversy.
“It is very confusing in terms of what the law says is considered a valid signature of consent,” she explained. “My brother did sign, he gave me the footage. He was very much in favor of the documentary. But he is a man whose judgment is impaired by disease — so how valid should it be? As we move forward in making the film, we will continue to consult. Ultimately, I hope that the controversy still exists, because new legislation absolutely has to be made toward this kind of decisions.”
The Artemis Rising Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to developing and promoting media, education and artistic expressions that seek to transform our culture.