Since March is brain injury awareness month I am dedicating each weekly post in March to brain injury. The focus this week is on movies about brain injury. In particular I would like to discuss a documentary film about brain injury that I was made aware of by a fellow blogger (and one of the filmmakers, Cheryl Green).
It’s a documentary called “Who am I To Stop It” (2016) distributed by New Day Pictures and co-directed by Cheryl Green (a brain injury survivor) and Cynthia J. Lopez. It’s a documentary feature that profiles three people who have survived Traumatic Brain Injury and use art (one is a painter, another is a rapper and the third is a singer) to move through life after brain injury.
When I was contacted several months ago by filmmaker Cheryl Green about viewing her documentary “Who Am I To Stop It” (2016), I decided to wait to view and discuss it until March since it’s Brain Injury Awareness Month.
The documentary is refreshing in its approach to interviewing the subjects years post injury and it doesn’t focus on the injuries but really more the journey each artist has taken post injury and the role art plays in that healing process. The tagline for the film is: “A documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.” When I emailed Green a few questions about the movie she states that focusing on the art and artist rather than the injury was a deliberate choice the filmmakers made. “I focused on artists mostly because of my own experience of finding a sense of self and community through the arts. But also because I knew that we could talk about art and life and not just have interviews about brain injuries and wrecks” Green said.
The film profiles three artists. Dani Sanderson is a rapper, beatboxer, and poet who suffered a severe TBI in high school. When the film starts profiling Dani she is graduating from high school. Through grit and determination and with a supportive family Dani completes her goal of getting her high school diploma even though the injury caused hardships and delays. As she is being followed for the documentary Dani begins to share her raps publicly. The next artist profiled is singer Brandon Michael Scarth. Like Dani, Brandon experienced a severe TBI when he was young. He had just completed his first year of Bible college and was training to be a Worship Pastor. When the film profiles him, Brandon is living in a group home for people with brain injuries. He played and performed music before the TBI and continues to do so now. The third artist profiled is painter Kris Haas. She experienced a mild TBI at work and after the TBI began pursuing painting full time. During the documentary, Kris is evicted from her apartment and starts to live in a group home where she still lives today. You can learn more about these three people on the film’s website artist page.
What I learned about brain injury through the course of watching this film is that the phrase I dislike to hear that “every brain injury is different” is really true. However, it doesn’t make me like that phrase any more than I did because I feel that health care providers use it as an excuse for why they aren’t spending more time finding medical solutions for your medical problems (my opinion). I also learned that art as therapy (as I discussed in last week’s post) is an amazing recovery and healing tool. As I learned from my email correspondence with Green, using art as a way to learn to connect with the world post-TBI is something I should continue to pursue. Cheryl Green ventured into filmmaking after experiencing her TBI in 2010. She started with a short film called “Cooking with Brain Injury” (2011) and found she enjoyed the experience and the community so she continued making films with “Who Am I to Stop It” as her first documentary feature. Green is now working more as a podcast editor, and closed caption and audio describer for film.
These artists aren’t just using art as therapy to heal immediately following their injuries, it’s a lifelong pursuit and way of life. Kris expresses her appreciation of art and the pursuit of it as something that propels her forward and is “something to look towards.” I certainly feel that with my writing. I may not blog forever but I will always write. I have a memory of coming up with a story idea just two months out of my coma. I haven’t written that story yet but I plan to turn it into a novel once I complete my memoir. Watching this film encouraged me to continue on my path of writing a memoir and published author. Because every brain injury may be different but every artist is too… and I’d rather be defined by my art rather than brain injury!
How to Watch the Documentary: If your library has the “Kanopy” streaming service you can watch it that way. If you work for a college, non-profit, hospital, support group, or other organization, your organization can buy the film streaming or DVD through New Day Films. You can also purchase the DVD on the New Day Films website.
How to Watch other Videos by Cheryl Green: vimeo.com/StoryMinders
If you have a film or other form of art (no music, unfortunately, because of my TBI disability), please let me know. You can comment on this blog post, find me on Twitter, or contact me through this blog.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is a good resource for information of advocacy in America. Their theme for this year is “More Than My Brain Injury.” My previous blogs on Brain Injury Awareness Month: Change your Mind- Brain Injury Awareness Month” (2019), “March is Brain Injury Awareness Month” (2019), “Monthly Writing Update: March is for Memoir” (2019), “How my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has Affected my Hearing” (2019). And in 2020 I did each monthly feature for Brain Injury Awareness Month: book review. pop culture, essay, and writing update. And this month I began my annual posts with a discussion of the new theme: More Than My Brain Injury, and last week Art as Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury.
This week the Oscar nominations were announced. You can view a list of the nominees here. And I will probably do another one of my “Oscars Where to Watch the Nominees” ballot and list, but in the meantime, you can check out where to stream the nominees here. A reminder that the Oscars are April 25th this year.