Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Have Tourette's but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me

I Have Tourette's but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me (2005)
Director: Ellen Goosenberg Kent
USA, 27 minutes

Tourette's Syndrome is probably the most commonly misunderstood mental disorder (thanks in part to the animated potty-mouth on the right). No, we don't all curse uncontrollably. Only about 10 percent of Tourette's sufferers exhibit the symptom, also known as Coprolalia. No, we can't stop it. Yes, some of us can control it if we really need to, but being cast out socially does not help.

I Have Tourette's but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me is composed of studio interviews with about a dozen elementary and middle school kids who suffer from Tourette's Syndrome and a few short pieces that focus on what a few of them do to cope or combat their tics. If you look at it as a documentary that highlights the effects of a mental disorder on a child's social growth, it is devastating and depressing. During Julian's segment, one of his friends says, "They treat you differently, not like everyone else. I think that's all he really wants, is to be like everyone else." That just about sums up the feelings of everyone who suffers from Tourette's, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or one of the many attention or behavior-related mental disorders. A lot of physically deformed or limited people probably feel the same way.

But it is even more important as an educational piece. These kids spill out everything you could ever want to know about Tourette's Syndrome: Why they tic, why they can't stop, what it feels like to be out of control. Of all the reasons to make a documentary - and this is coming from someone who shot a documentary last weekend about where to eat late at night in Adams Morgan - I find education to be the highest goal. Just to hammer the point home, when I received the DVD (order it here), I got a Teacher's Guide in the package.

It's not making a case for or against anything. It doesn't want to shame people with the kids' stories of being bullied and cast out. Those take up an extremely small percentage of the film. They are included in the first two or three minutes to shock the audience into opening their eyes and watching. Then comes the education. Ah ha! What you thought was a legitimate reason for making fun of someone (and thus stepping over them in the warped social hierarchy that permeates grade school) is actually out of our control. I have no experience in education, but I'm pretty sure that a good lesson starts by challenging what the students think they know. Yes, you're all wrong! Let's find out why! Robert Wuhl does this brilliantly in Assume the Position.

I Have Tourette's but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me demonstrates that a documentary's first order of business is to educate. It should open the audience's eyes to something they did not know. One of the best ways to do that is to play the professor, which makes a plan or a script for a documentary not unlike a lesson plan.

Even if I'm trying to teach you that Pizza Mart is the only place you should go in Adams Morgan to get your jumbo slice fix.


Anonymous said...

My name is Francesca Sophia, and I'm working on a script for a fictional short film about a young man with Tourettes. I won't go into great detail because it will be a 3 - 5 minute short probably and I don't want to give anything away. I am a 20 year old female filmmaker with Tourettes from Manchester, England - I've just written an article for TOURETTES ACTION - the official Tourettes Support Organisation in England because of recent success with a short film called "Olivia, Explorer", which gained 1.3 million views within a 2 week period on it's upload to youtube.

If there is anyone who wants to e-mail me their own stories of Tourettes, as although I have Tourettes, I want to make sure the film reaches a wide variety of people with Tourettes - my email address is:


Hope any who reads this is well, and thanks.

Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...

hello!...apparently i have been hiding under a rock.i have never seen ms. kent's work. BUT, i just viewed the short film on tourettes and i found it so eye-opening and heartfelt. how my heart aches!! i am attempting to find out how to contact ms. kent via any type of media....if someone out there could please give me a "begining", i will do the necessary "leg-work"! thank you in advance for your time and considerations.........l.p in visaia,ca