(San Francisco)—When filmmaker Laurel Chiten was seventeen, she was in a car accident and suffered a collapsed lung and had several stitches to her head. “Three days later I was sent home: healed, they said. The following spring, my head started jerking back and forth and up and down. It felt like someone else was in control of my body.” Chiten saw doctor after doctor, until one of them finally diagnosed her condition as dystonia, a neurological disorder that forces muscles into abnormal, often painful, movements or postures. Dystonia can affect one muscle group or the whole body; it can cause the body to twist.
With TWISTED, the agonies and challenges of dystonia are explored; Chiten narrates the film, weaving the stories of three dystonia sufferers as they seek treatment, reckon with their disease and ponder life-changing decisions. TWISTED will have its television premiere on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, at 10pm (check local listings).
Basketball coach and athlete Pat Brogan was riding his bike, training for a triathlon, when he was sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver and left for dead. He woke up in a trauma center. Months later, Brogan began to notice that something was terribly wrong: his head was wrenched severely to the right, and without great effort, he couldn’t make it go back.
Shari Tritt has generalized dystonia, a genetic form that affects her whole body. As a child she had a radical form of brain surgery, which improved her dystonia throughout much of her body but left her unable to speak clearly. Then, the internet gave her a voice, and in a chat room the passionate Shari found Ira, who loves to talk. It was a match made in heaven.
Like Shari, Remy Campbell also has generalized dystonia. Five years ago, Campbell decided to undergo risky, experimental surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in which electrodes are implanted in the brain as a “pacemaker” for the brain’s electronic activity. She regained control over her body and now walks upright and is pain free.
But there is no cure for dystonia. Therapies that bring relief to one patient may be useless for another. Through interviews with other dystonia sufferers, including NPR host Diane Rehm and renowned pianist Leon Fleischer, Chiten’s film becomes a story of courage and hope that takes us on an inspiring and almost sci-fi like trip to the frontier of medicine and into the deeper mystery of who we are: skin deep, brain deep, neuron deep or something even deeper?
The TWISTED interactive companion website (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/twisted) features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to dystonia. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film and more.
About the Filmmaker
Laurel Chiten has been an independent filmmaker for over twenty years. Her films include Touched (2003), about people who think they have been abducted by aliens, and the Harvard psychiatrist who believed them. Touched won Best Documentary at the Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) and Best Documentary of 2003 in the “Abductee or Contactee” category at a long-running UFO convention. She also made The Jew in the Lotus, inspired by Rodger Kamenetz's best-selling book, which aired on Independent Lens, and Twitch and Shout, a documentary about people living with Tourette Syndrome, which was aired nationally as part of the PBS series, P.O.V.Twitch and Shout was nominated for a national Emmy, and has received numerous other awards. Other projects include Two in Twenty, a five episode satirical soap opera series, and a 10-part series with Robin Casarjian based on her book Houses of Healing, a self-study guide utilized in prisons nationwide.
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