Running From Crazy follows actress and activist Mariel Hemingway, whom is the granddaughter of legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway. The family has a highly publicized history of battling depression and suicide, and it’s that legacy that inspired Mariel to explore the underlying determinate driving her family’s choices.
She says, “It’s the journey of me trying to discover why my family is nuts, why I felt like I was nuts and what it means for a person to make the choices they make in their life.”
The film is a conversation throughout in which she is asking these pertinent questions and making statements about her life to better understand it herself. She has always suffered from depression, and it wasn’t until a few years ago she felt she came out from under it, saying if it’s all you know, then you don’t know what it’s like to be happy. “It wasn’t until the culmination of seeing the film that it came full circle, and I realized I’m OK. This made me OK. This doesn’t define me just because I come from seven suicides, manic depression, alcohol addiction and all that. It doesn’t mean that’s who I am. That’s a powerful realization.”
Mariel expresses that, ultimately, this is a positive film that’s uplifting and hopeful. She mentions several times the relief of affirming that she doesn’t have to pass the struggle on to her children and being able to explain it in inspirited fashion is empowering. The reason she participated in the documentary isn’t because she thinks her story is extraordinary but because she feels nearly everyone either has a similar story or knows someone battling with mental illness. “We need to talk about it. I thought if I had courage to, then others can maybe talk about it. It’s healing. It’s healed me.”
The film’s directed by two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple, and sitting next to each other, the rapport between the two is evidently strong- Mariel liking them to an old married couple. Kopple explains that in directing a documentary she has to adamantly care about the person she is working with. “You have to feel passionate about them, believe in them. There has to be a trust between you, because you are asking them to open up and reveal so many incredible things.” Mariel adds that documentaries are a different experience, and it isn’t a reality TV show. There’s a high level of trust and safety that must be felt, because without that support it’s difficult to reveal the intimacy of you. “She has to know that I had her back,” says Kopple, “and that I wasn’t going to hurt her.”
Running From Crazy is a centerpiece film and screens tomorrow at 6pm at the Opera House. Mariel Hemingway is conducting a conversation series tonight at 7:30 at FST’s Court Cabaret