Manic chronicles filmmaker Kalina Bertin’s struggle to make sense of the mental illness wreaking havoc over her family’s household. Convinced he holds a piece to the puzzle, she sets out to find the truth about their father, a man known alternately as a cult leader, a scam artist, a prophet, and a father of 15 children around the world. Manic takes the viewer on an intimate journey through the legacy of mental illness.
What’s unique about the film is that she travels around the world and speaks to friends and lovers from his various lives; she has documentation of the past through his extensive home videos, including videos of her family when Kalina was a child and, additionally, she is in the family home filming when her siblings have their episodes. It really makes you feel like you are unraveling a mystery alongside Kalina while living the angst that is omnipresent in her family.
Kalina herself is such a great conversation. At 27 years of age, she has been working on this film since she was only 23. She is open, honest and has a clarity toward the subjects and the subject matter that allows her to talk about her family and their mental illness in a very honest and calm manner.
There are so many topics to discuss here.
Obviously, any discussion of mental health helps to de-mystify it and in turn gives anyone who may be suffering a better chance to get help if there are less prejudices against them.
How was she able to investigate all of these elements of her father’s life, while maintaining a certain distance from the events? Also, how was she able to talk about her siblings’ bipolar disorder with them, on camera, in both emotional and non-emotional ways? Since the camera gave her distance from them, did it help her to deal with their problems more easily?
From a strictly entertainment point of view, the film has all the great elements of conflict, fear, intense characters, beautiful locales and the deeper you get into it, the more you want to get to the end of the film to see what happens to the main subjects.
Kalina, the filmmaker is young, female and from Montreal. This year Hot Docs has announced that 48% of their filmmakers are female. That’s quite an interesting commitment. There is great filmmaking talent coming out of Montreal: Dolan, Villeneuve, Vallée, 2 Oscars for Short Films, etc.