Seeing Unrest–It Was Worth The Effort
A week before the film Unrest was scheduled to be shown at our theater, we tried to buy tickets to a showing at which Jennifer Brea and her husband Omar Wasow would be hosting a Q&A. Bummer, that showing was sold out. I admit, I cried.
Instead, we got tickets to a showing with a Q&A hosted by the producer. Later, I found out that we actually got the wrong tickets for that, so Mr. C. called the box office to switch the tickets.
Then, I found out that another showing was newly scheduled to include a Q&A with Jennifer, so my sweet husby quickly bought our third set of tickets and got our second refund. “I’m so sorry to call again about these non-refundable tickets, but my wife…….” They understood.
I told Mr. C. that this was BIG to me and the ME/CFS community. “It’s like if Martin Luther King Jr. was going to march from Selma and you didn’t show up.” Really? THAT big? Yes. This film, I believe, has already turned heads and will continue to unite the ME/CFS community across the globe for much needed reforms and attention.
iTunes release: October 10th, 2017 (I’ve ordered my copy!)
Story Behind the Film
Four years in the making, the award-winning feature film Unrest has gained international recognition and is causing patients, doctors and politicians around the world to reevaluate the long-ignored disease: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).
The director Jennifer Brea, a former Harvard Ph.D. student, fell sick with 105 degree temperature in her late 20’s, shortly after her engagement to Omar. After she got over the infection, she knew something was still wrong.
Like many of us who have ME/CFS, her condition wasn’t taken seriously by doctors, and she was told that it must be all in her head. Maybe she had repressed memories from the past or she was just super stressed from her final exams.
This documentary shows otherwise.
“People Need To See This”
Though she temporarily lost the ability to write due to this disease, she could still journal through filming herself.
“People need to see this”, she said during one scene of her struggling to crawl up the stairs while her sweet husband, Omar, wanted to put down the camera to help.
What began as an autobiographical journey soon turned into an international collaboration as film crews, doctors, care givers, and patients from around the world worked together to make this film possible.
You meet Jessica from the UK who has been bedridden since high school. You meet teenage Karina from Denmark who was forcibly taken from her parents and put in a mental institution since the government there thinks ME/CFS is a psychiatric condition. You meet young Whitney from California (son of Ronald Davis, now a lead researcher for ME/CFS at Stanford University) who can no longer eat or speak. You meet others. Their bodies are deteriorating. Time is not on their side.
Time For Unrest
Throughout the film you feel the sense of urgency to find a cure, but alas, even in the USA, this disease is largely ignored. As the film highlights, there are hardly any funds available for research and the health care professionals are unqualified to treat their patients. Many still believe the disease doesn’t exist.
Alternately heart pounding and heart warming, Unrest is a must-see for everyone, especially for those connected to the ME/CFS community.
Meeting Jennifer and the ME/CFS Community
What was profound for me was that for the first time ever, I was in a room with many other CFS survivors. Just being there without words or even eye contact (really, we just filed in a theater and sat down in empty chairs like normal movie goers), I felt understood, validated, and connected. I belonged.
After the film as the credits scrolled and the tears rolled, I heard gasps behind me as Jennifer started walking down the center aisle stairs to the front where a couple chairs were waiting. We started clapping, but softly, so as not to hurt any of the sound-sensitive in the crowd. She took her time as normally she’d be in a wheelchair, but you could tell that inside her weak body was a young gal who was full of life and passion. She was all smiles!
Thoughts From Jennifer
My note pad and pencil were ready.
Jennifer shared what it was like when she realized she was chronically ill. “The hardest moment is the beginning.” She lost everything. After the dust settled, though, she explained how she saw that “there’s life beyond this.” She shared a bit about how she learned to live within her energy means. The film touches on this a little, but during the Q&A she added, “I learned how much you can do if you use the little you have.” Pacing yourself is key. I’m still learning this!
“Drip drip. That’s how you form canyons.”
~ Jennifer Brea
During the Q&A, it was sweet to hear people in the crowd share their stories and ask those burning questions we all wish we could ask if only there was someone to listen. We became a support group for a few moments, and I think all of us were touched deeply by hope and a sense of purpose to raise awareness.
At some point, our group was moved out of the theater into the lobby. Here I was able to chat a bit and ask a question that has been on my heart for a while.
“What advice would you and your husband give to spouses of those with ME/CFS?”
Though my man would never say anything, I know that when one spouse has this disease, both are dramatically affected.
She said that finding some solid support is still a work in progress for her and Omar, but they have started an online community for spouses and caregivers to connect. Wonderful!
Thank you Jennifer and the whole Unrest team. Well done!