After discovering archival footage filmed by her psychologist father in 1990s Germany, director Zora Kuettner began to investigate her radical treatment of mental illness and the stories she spent her entire life living with. to listen. The result is “Don’t Call Me Mad,” an examination not only of Dr. Kuettner’s visionary treatment methods, but also how his past influenced his relationship with his daughter.
The project, selected as part of the IDFA Forum Pitch programme, is Kuettner’s feature debut and is produced by BFI Vision Award winner Loran Dunn of Delaval Film and executive produced by Charlie Phillips, former head of video at The Guardian, and Sandpaper Henry Singer from the film.
“I think this movie has always been inside of me and now felt like the right time to make it,” Kuettner said. “I believe that as a woman, if you’re even remotely organized and have your head on your shoulders, you step into the role of producer very quickly, and it can be quite difficult to move on. to directing. With this movie, no one else could tell that story. I’m my father’s daughter, so I felt vindicated as a director, so to speak.
Loran, who is also working on a fictional film with ‘Stranger Things’ actor Joseph Quinn, adds, “I’ve known Zora for almost 10 years and I know she’s been working on this story for a long time. We started to talking about it right before the pandemic and it developed in a way that I was very interested in. Seeing Zora recognize her voice in the film was something that I really responded to as a producer, and I wanted to help tell the story.
On the toll the film might have on her relationship with her father, Zora says, “There’s a fear of not just exposing her but exposing myself. I think it’s quite natural to have doubts as a filmmaker because some people look at my father’s story and wonder: why do I care? And then you dig deeper and the fact that he was a reformer isn’t really the story; the story tries to find the truth: what happened? I hope people will come to the story because of this personal dynamic and be led to think about serious mental illness.
“I started talking to my father about the film about 10 years ago, in 2013,” she continues, reflecting on the long preparation process she went through with her father. “I think he felt uncomfortable embarking on the journey. He was interested and had this desire to see his patients again and find out what happened, but I think he also felt quite nervous and anxious about what it would mean for him to face this part of his life.
“The other thing is I find myself as a filmmaker. When I started making this film, I thought it was going to be about these amazing stories that my dad always told, and we were going to meet his patients and that he would be that great hero. The film turned out to be a kind of realization that dreams aren’t always quite what we thought, and some things can be very different. It feels like the stage ultimate adulthood, to get to this point,” she adds.
Speaking about the importance of making ‘Don’t Call Me Mad’, Kuettner says, “There’s a certain irony in the fact that I’m kind of stuck in this idealistic hope of this film, of wanting to tell this story in the right way. Cinema is also a form of idealism, so you dream of what the film can be, and that’s one of my driving forces. When I started working on the film, I didn’t I’ve never heard a story that’s remotely happy or positive about what you can do with someone who has schizophrenia or hears voices Even though the truth I found is more complex than what my father originally proposed, I think I still want to capture some of that beauty, some of that magic, and some of that hope.
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