Filmmaker Sandra Luckow knows how important her new film THAT WAY MADNESS LIES… will be for the Yale community and for the city of New Haven — after all she spent the last seven years making this documentary about her schizophrenic brother, Duane, who has cycled in and out of institutions in a broken mental health system.

This Sunday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m., the Yale School of Art, the Yale Film and Media Studies Program and the Films at the Whitney are co-hosting a screening of Luckow’s feature-length documentary at the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium. After the screening, Luckow will host a Q&A session. The film’s title, THAT WAY MADNESS LIES…, comes from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act III, Scene IV.

“It is my greatest hope that this film will be an agent for changing the way we deal with our mental health in America,” Luckow said.

In the film, Luckow and her family try to navigate the American mental health system in an effort to save her schizophrenic brother.

Three months into his first court-ordered, 180-day stay at Oregon State Hospital, Duane gave his sister his iPhone with 250 video clips. He had passionately documented his experience. What is perhaps most impressive about the film is that two siblings, working together but ultimately drifting apart, successfully expose an ineffectual and inhumane system at the core of many treatment stories.

The iPhone footage Duane shot as his condition worsened offered a rare, unfiltered look at the mind of an untreated schizophrenic. Dr. Larry Davidson, professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, is one of many psychiatric professionals around the United States who have called the film an important and accurate depiction of mental illness — one that should be seen by policy makers and those who care about the care and treatment of people living with mental illness in the country.

“This is the only film that I know of that has risen to the task of representing the terrors and tragedies of psychosis accurately and with immediacy,” Davidson said in a letter of support for the film. “This is the only one I know of that can truly serve educational and advocacy functions in changing the mental health system to one that promotes recovery and community inclusion as opposed to chronicity and dependency.”

Luckow said in an email to the News that she especially encourages first responders in law enforcement and crisis management to see the film.

As an undergraduate at Yale, Luckow majored in American Studies and film Studies, and 2017 marked her 20th year teaching at the Yale School of Art, where she teaches introductory and intermediate documentary filmmaking courses. The deeply personal nature of her courses allows her to hear from students about their experiences with mental illness and Yale’s mental health system.

“The stories I have heard from my students usually don’t make it to print because of the stigma surrounding the issue,” she said in an email to the News.

THAT WAY MADNESS LIES… won the Award of Merit from the IndieFEST Film Awards and received multiple festival nominations. 

Bianka Ukleja | bianka.ukleja@yale.edu