When a Harvard Ph.D. student is struck down by a fever that leaves her bedridden, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story.

Jennifer Brea undergoing medical testing
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
January 8, 2018
90 minutes
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2018 News and Documentary Emmy Awards-Outstanding Editing: Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2017 Sundance Film Festival-Special Jury Award for Editing
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2017 Sheffield Doc/Fest-Illuminate Award
  • Director

    Jennifer Brea

    Jennifer Brea is an independent documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She has an AB from Princeton University and was a PhD student at Harvard until sudden illness left her bedridden. In the aftermath, she rediscovered her first love, film. Her feature documentary, Unrest, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won a Special Show more Jury Prize. She is also co-creator of Unrest VR, winner of the Sheffield Doc/Fest Alternate Realities Award. An activist for invisible disabilities and chronic illness, she co-founded a global advocacy network, #MEAction and is a TED Talker. Show less

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    The Film

    Director Jennifer Brea was a journalist and academic studying for a PhD at Harvard. Months before her wedding, she became progressively ill, losing the ability to even sit in a wheelchair. When told by her doctor it was "all in her head," her response was to start filming from her bed, gradually deploying crews globally to document the world inhabited by millions of patients that medicine forgot. Unrest tells the story of Jen and Omar, newlyweds facing the unexpected, and the four extraordinary M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome) patients Jen meets throughout her journey, in the United States, U.K., and Denmark. Together, they explore how to make a life of meaning when everything changes. The film is a feat of disability filmmaking, made with an international team and using innovative technologies to allow the bedbound, disabled director to "travel the world" and film as if in the room.