Archive for the ‘screenings’ Category

Jan Emamian and Rick Minnich at the S. Pasadena Library

The lively Q & A session with my sister Jan and me after the screening at the South Pasadena Library on June 30th is now online exclusively for supporters of the “Father’s Day Film Tour.” Make your contribution in any amount today, and we’ll send you the password to watch the 43 minute video.

The fundraising campaign runs through July 10th. All revenue will be used to cover the tour expenses (DVD production, theater rentals, posters, flyers, travel expenses, etc.)

Thanks for your support!

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Here’s a little interview in the South Pasadena Patch reflecting some thoughts on my encounter with my father last weekend.
Tonight is the final screening of the Father’s Day Film Tour of California at the South Pasadena Public Library at 7 p.m.

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Today we launched the crowdfunding campaign for the Father’s Day Film Tour and DVD release of FORGETTING DAD. We aim to raise $6000 on IndieGoGo by July 10, 2011 to cover the production of the deluxe-edition DVD, new promotional materials and travel expenses related to Rick’s tour of California.

Even though Rick was born and raised in California and most of FORGETTING DAD was shot there, it has never been publicly screened there. But this is about to change. The California premiere will take place as part of the prestigious USC Summer Film Series on Father’s Day, June 19th. Rick will then tour around the state for two weeks. Click here for a list of screenings.

We’ve got lots of fun VIP perks like DVDs, free tickets, posters, private screenings and scrumptious cupcakes and cakes baked by my niece Yasi. So check out the campaign, come out to see the film, spread the word through all your networks, and make a donation if you can. Thanks!

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Back to alma mater

Today Matt and I returned to my old film school, the Film & Television Academy “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam-Babelsberg, to discuss “Forgetting Dad” with some first-year film students right after they’d watched the film. I hadn’t stepped foot inside the school in years, but everything looked just the same.

It was a bit difficult to gage the students reactions. They seemed a bit overwhelmed by the film and by our presence. Or maybe they were simply too young to be able to fully digest the film. Our most appreciative audiences tend to be people who are old enough to have kids and grandkids of their own or to have suffered the loss of a parent.

For what it was worth, it was great to put in another joint appearance and to have the opportunity to reflect upon this little beast that we launched slightly over two years ago. Thanks to Marie Wilke for inviting us to talk to her students!

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For quite a while now, I’ve been hoping to have some screenings combined with workshops and/or discussions with medical experts and practitioners. But not until yesterday’s event in Würzburg did all the elements fall into place. 100 psychologists, neuropsychologists, psychotherapists, other members of the medical profession, and interested viewers from Würzburg and the surrounding area attended the afternoon screening at the Cinemaxx multiplex in Würzburg – quite a sizable crowd for a 3 p.m. screening on a Wednesday. Afterwards, I had the great honor of participating in a Q & A with Germany’s leading memory researcher Prof. Dr. Hans J. Markowitsch
from the University of Bielefeld. While researching for FORGETTING DAD many, many years ago, I came across an article about an English soldier with amnesia, whom Prof. Markowitsch had examined in Der Spiegel. When I was asked to discuss the film together with him, I leapt at the opportunity.

Rick Minnich and Prof. Dr. Hans J. Markowitsch

Prof. Markowitsch was generous enough to let me pick his brain all night long. I was hoping he might provide me with some more insight into my father’s amnesia, but he more or less concurred with the opinions of the neuropsychologist and the psychiatrist who evaluated my father after his amnesia began, and who diagnosed him with a dissociative disorder. Prof. Markowitsch was skeptical of the diffuse axonal injury diagnosis a neurologist from Helsinki made after seeing FD on Finnish television last year. Others present in the room, however, were more open to the DAI diagnosis, which would suggest that my father did indeed suffer physical damage to his brain, as he continues to claim.


Cinemaxx Würzburg

During the two-hour workshop Prof. Markowitsch gave later in the evening, he presented an excellent overview of the various types of memory loss, and how they might come about, whether organic, functional (psychological) or both. He presented plenty of brain scans, including some illustrating how different sections of the brain are activated by authentic vs. fictitious memories. Because he is often called in to give an expert opinion in court cases involving people who are supposedly suffering from memory gaps, Prof. Markowitsch has a lot of experience with malingerers or ‘fakers.’ He doesn’t see any indications that my father might be faking his amnesia, however, which some people think after watching the film. Unfortunately, my father still believes that the film is all about proving he’s faking his amnesia, and that I’ve been expending enormous amounts of time and energy trying to convince our family and the rest of the world of that. Hopefully he’ll watch the film someday and realize that that’s not at all the case.

Prof. Markowitsch tied all the strings together by discussing the various stressors which can contribute to memory loss – physical, psychic, environmental, biological, ethnogenetic – and how any combination of these can add up to cause the keg to overflow (the German expression for “the straw that broke the camel’s back”). Whether the amnesia is organic or psychogenic, the effects are the same. But different causes require different kinds of treatment. Unfortunately, there was no discussion of the stigmatism surrounding psychogenic amnesia and mental illness in general, and how this is detrimental in preventing and treating mental illness.

Rococo Garden, Veitshöchheim

As is often the case, some of the most interesting discussions took place after the official events. During dinner, I brought up a few issues which have always bothered me, and which we were unable to thematicize in the film. One of the major ones is my father’s relationship to his therapist Dr. Karen, whom he called ‘Mom’ or ‘Karen Mom’. I met her two or three times during the ten years or so that she treated my father, and always felt very uneasy about their relationship. He hung on her every word, and often seemed either unwilling or incapable of making any important decisions on his own without first consulting her. I had the distinct feeling that the goal of their relationship was not to get to the bottom of what was causing my father’s amnesia and to treat it, but rather to protect my father from all the doctors who were ‘poking and prodding him’ and to help him adjust to life as ‘New Richard’. They seemed to do away with ‘Old Richard’ rather swiftly, and Dr. Karen didn’t seem terribly interested in talking to ‘Old Richard’s’ family to find out more about his past. It always felt like they’d made some kind of pact, and the rest of us were deliberately being kept in the dark.

The various psychologists and neuropsychologists around the dinner table last night certainly perked up their ears at the mention of ‘Mom’ and were not at a loss of words about what all that meant. When I mentioned that my father once let it slip out that ‘Mom’ advised him against participating in the film because there would be too many uncertainties involved and the film could cause more harm than good, the therapist across the table from me said he could understand why my father followed ‘Mom’s’ advice. So can I. When my father told me that six years ago, I knew immediately the real reason for his resistance to the film, and that it wasn’t about protecting his and Tracy’s privacy, which is what he usually claimed if he gave any explanation at all.

So no big lights went off in my head as a result of this, but an environmental doctor present got me thinking about factors I’d never considered before – environmental stressors such as pesticides and other toxins my father might have been exposed to while working on farms as a teenager, and as a result of all our moves and renovations during my childhood. These accululate in the body and can be one of the stressors which can help set off amnesia. Unfortunately, very few doctors think to test for such things. However, biochemical therapy such as enzyme treatment can be very helpful in combatting these toxins and in helping rebuild membranes in the brain and increasing the flow of energy in damaged sections.

This doctor found my father’s complaints about his brain stem and the increased difficulties he’s had there since his heart attack four years ago quite plausible and not as bizarre as the doctors who treated my father at the time apparently considered them. Maybe his memory cannot be restored – if that would even be desirable twenty years after his amnesia began – but the tissue damage in his brain stem area could possibly be treated so that his extreme discomfort there could be alleviated and blockages in his brain reduced. This would greatly improve his quality of life. But would he be willing to undergo such treatment? Would he simply interpret it as another attempt on the part of ‘Old Richard’s’ family to try to restore his memories? At this point, I think he’d be happy if he never saw another doctor again.

A Franconian delight - stuffed duck

In all, it was a delightful event. I’d like to thank several persons for making the whole thing happen: Prof. Markowitsch for agreeing to speak and give his workshop, Herbert König and Gerhard Müller from the Akademie König & Müller for the fantastic organization, Hans Fuchs from the Hotel Weisses Lamm in Veithöchsheim for the excellent venue and delicious dinner (I was treated to the Franconian specialty: a scrumptious stuffed duck with the best dumplings and red cabbage I’ve ever had), and to Miriam Pflüger from W-Film for making all this happen.

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It’s been a tough go so far with the theatrical release here in Germany. With lovely summer weather and the soccer World Cup, FORGETTING DAD has had some stiff competition. Compared to the hundreds of people I grew used to seeing in the crowds at film festivals around the world, it’s been a bit disappointing to stand before only a handful of people in movie theaters here. But sometimes small crowds are a blessing. Such was the case last night at the Brotfabrik in Berlin.

I decided pretty last-minute to drop by for the last screening of the two-week run at the Brotfabrik so there wasn’t much time to publicize my appearance. Still, it was a bit jolting to see only three people in the crowd: a filmmaker, a doctor, and a psychotherapist. But we hung out together for hours afterward, discussing the film in great detail. Even though Matt and I did a fair amount of medical research while making the film, I always resisted learning too much about amnesia. I didn’t want to approach the story from above and know a lot more than everyone else in my family. Instead, I wanted to put viewers in our shoes so they could experience all the ups and downs of not knowing what’s going on with my father. It’s the emotional ride that interested me, not medical jargon.

All three people last night reacted very strongly to the film, but it was the assessment of the doctor and psychotherapist which left the strongest impression on me. Both were really impressed by our filmmaking, by the dramatic curve and the mood the film creates. They also felt that FORGETTING DAD is an excellent portrait of how a personality can become disturbed and what happens to families in such situations. In fact, the psychotherapist could imagine using the film in the training of psychotherapists precisely because of all the issues involving family dynamics which the film raises.

During the course of the evening, we got to talking about the rapid increase in the number of people going to some form of psychotherapy or another and the shortage of therapists here in Berlin. What does all this say about the culture we live in now? Too much pressure to succeed leading to an increase in the number of people suffering from depression? Definitely. That’s what the doctors had to say. But they were also quick to add that studies have shown that psychotheraphy is a more cost-effective way of treating many patients who spend years running from one specialist to another for various ailments which are caused by a mental disturbance. The psychotherapist spoke about how these visits to specialists decrease during the course of therapy as the physical symptoms go away.

This all led to speculation about the physical ailments which still plague my father: his equilibrium problems and ongoing complaints about pain in his brain stem, especially since his heart attack four years ago. Both experts were convinced by the ‘dissociative disorder’ diagnosis we discovered in the doctors’ reports while making the film. Physical ailments are simply part of the illness.

The psychotherapist considered my father’s illness much too severe to ‘heal’ in the 2-3 years that the doctors said it would take back then, and suggested that such unrealistic assessments are often arrived at through pressure from insurance companies that don’t want to pay for their sick patients any longer than they deem necessary. All this financial stuff was such a mess back then that I still don’t really know what to make of it all. The point is, according to the psychotherapist, if my father had wanted to get better, he could have. But something really deep inside him resisted and continues to repress unwanted memories. A lot of us think all the efforts my father (unconsciously) expends upon keeping ‘Old Richard’ at bay is what led to his heart attack and rapid aging.

Mental illness remains a tabu topic, but things are changing in this regard. There is definitely more public dialogue about the matter than twenty years ago, when my father’s amnesia began. I hope this trend continues, and that other families which find themselves in a similar situation as mine are better able to talk about it and help their loved one than we were. Maybe FORGETTING DAD can play some kind of role in instigating more dialogue. This has been my hope all along. Mental illness is horrifying enough, and even worse when you’re left alone as either the sick one or a family member and don’t know where to turn for help.

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W-Film has organized a series of special screenings of FORGETTING DAD followed by discussions with medical experts. These events promise to shed new perspectives on my father’s amnesia, and will surely be fascinating to attend. Here are the details:

Frankfurt/Main: SO 6. Juni, 17.45 Uhr, Orfeos Erben, mit Dr. Hartwig Spors vom Max Planck Institut

Köln: SO 6. Juni, 11 Uhr, Odeon Kino, mit Dipl. Psychiater M. Flöter, Dipl. Psychiater G. Hoika-Messing-Flöter und Dipl. Psychiater B. Schoog

Oldenburg: SO 6. Juni, 17.45 Uhr, Casablanca Kino, mit Prof. Dr. A. Engelhardt

Wiesbaden: SO 6. Juni, 20 Uhr, Walhala Kino, mit Prof. Dr. Hecht

Berlin: MO 7. Juni, 19 Uhr, Sputnik, mit Prof. Dr. Niendegger (FU Berlin) und Prof. Denissen

München: Do 10. Juni, 18.30 Uhr, Neues Arena, mit Dr. B. Knab (Wissenschaftsautorin)

Leipzig: SA 12. Juni, 21 Uhr, Kinobar Prager Frühling, mit Prof. Dr. Konrad Reschke

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