Voices from the Emotional Underground

Date(s) - Thursday 11/20/2014 - 11/21/2014
10:00 pm - 3:00 am

Powerful stories with critical insight into the mental health system and a vision of alternatives, in two very different films.

5:30 PM – “Crooked Beauty”

6:00 PM – Community potluck

7:00 PM – Films by the Western Mass. Recovery Learning Community

“Beyond the Medical Model” excerpts

“The Virtues of Non Compliance,” (2014, 25 min.) WINNER – Best Short, Mad in America’s International Film Festival

Sera Davidow, filmmaker and executive director, Western Massachussetts Recovery Learning Community

8:15 PM – Panel/public forum, with:

Sascha Altman DuBrule, co-founder, The Icarus Project

Co-sponsored by: iEAR Presents!, NY Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation ServicesFamilies Together New Yorkthe Mental Health Empowerment Project, and Youth Power!






Crooked Beauty (2011), is part of the Mad Dance Trilogy by Ken Paul Rosenthal, which has collectively won 17 awards, screened at 52 film festivals, and been featured at dozens of peer support networks, mental health symposia, and community events worldwide. This internationally acclaimed poetic documentary chronicles artist-activist Jacks McNamara’s transformative journey from psych ward inpatient to pioneering mental health advocacy. It is an intimate portrait of her intense personal quest to live with courage and dignity, and a powerful critique of standard psychiatric treatments. Poignant testimonials connect the fissures and fault lines of human nature to the unstable topography and mercurial weather patterns of the San Francisco Bay Area. McNamara co-founded The Icarus Project. Three film screenings, followed by a public forum, offer an evocative critique of the mental health system and vision of alternatives. At the event, you’ll have an opportunity to meet people from co-sponsoring organizations and other local initiatives and purchase Western Mass Recovery Learning Community films and Sascha DeBrul’s book.  

“Beyond the Medical Model” (2013), a collaborative project led by Sera Davidow, examines the impact of a one-model system for what is often labeled ‘mental illness.’ This rigid framework, which underlies our legal system and language, makes it difficult to grapple with evidence that suggests we take a much broader perspective to understand the variety of human experience. Through people sharing diverse worldviews and aspects of their own stories, and practitioners and scholars looking refreshingly beyond the dogma, this film shows how we have sometimes harmed ourselves and our communities by unwittingly accepting the dominant narrative. Beyond the Medical Model encourages us to explore how we might begin to understand our experiences through a variety of lenses — without limiting ourselves to any one box or framework.  

 “The Virtues of Non-Compliance” (2014), by Evan Goodchild and Sera Davidow. The current-day mental health system continues to foster the idea that people who have been given serious psychiatric labels have limited potential. Professionals acting as experts often make authoritative pronouncements on what a person will ever be capable of. Those labeled mentally ill are deemed chronically sick and told to re-adjust their hopes and dreams to their ‘lifelong’ condition. Many internalize the message that they won’t ever be able to handle living on their own, going to school, working, getting married or having children. And they are warned they will have to stay on psychiatric medications for the rest of their lives, even if they leave them numb and unable to function. The news and popular culture perpetuate these diminished expectations and dire predictions, which unsurprisingly are picked up by friends and family. 

“The Virtues of Non-Compliance” talks back to all those oppressive notions through the voices of people who have ‘been there,’ told repeatedly that they can’t, and yet have gone on to live life on their own terms.  This strong, uplifting and rebellious film was voted “Best Short” out of a large field of contenders at Mad in America’s International Film Festival in October.

Filmmaker Sera Davidow is a mother, advocate, activist, filmmaker and a person with lived experience. She devotes much of her time as Director of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (RLC), a pioneering organization which creates conditions that support healing and growth for individuals and the community through learning opportunities, advocacy, peer-to-peer support and the development of regional and national networks.




Sascha Altman DuBrul is the co-founder of the Icarus Project, a radical community support network and media project that is actively redefining the language and culture of mental health and illness. (Jacks McNamara, portrayed in Crooked Beauty, co-founded the project.) He is the author of Maps to the Other Side: The Adventures of a Bipolar Cartographer, a document of one person’s odyssey to transform his experiences navigating the psychiatric system by building community in the face of adversity – a set of maps for how rebels and dreamers can survive and thrive in a crazy world.