Borderline personality disorder isn’t just topic fodder for documentarian Rebbie Ratner. The filmmaker has been diagnosed with the condition herself. When she wanted to make her first feature, started while she was in film school, it seemed a natural move to explore an issue that impacted her whole life. “I had been immersed in mental health for years,” she recalls.
Ratner (pictured above with producer Suzanne Mitchell) now comes to town with Borderline, a film following Regina, a woman living with the disease, mixed with interviews with mental health professionals about how the condition is treated and what impact it has on the lives of the diagnosed. The film screens at 1pm today, April 9, and 1:15pm Sunday, April 10, at the Regal Hollywood 20.
Ratner ended up finding her film subject through a Craigslist ad and ultimately developed a strong connection with Regina. In an interview with SRQ and Sarasota psychiatrist Dr. Christia De Guia, Ratner said she ultimately opted to put less boundaries on her own involvement in Regina’s life. “People make choices on how to modulate the relationship with their main subject. I made choices to navigate boundaries in a way that would allow for Regina to feel both safe but also have a real connection that wasn’t sugar-coated.”
And from that, a friendship that existed beyond the making of the documentary was forged. “We spent time and would hang out outside of filming and developed a friendship,” Ratner says. “I made the executive decision, particularly for after the film was complete, that I would have a role in her life in a social way as well, in spite of the fact I knew that would make the situation more complicated.”
The film shows many difficult aspects of Regina’s life, from trouble deciding whether and when to disclose her condition to people she meets on dating websites to getting angry over matters as simple as whether she could have bottled water at a therapist’s office or drink from the tap.
“She (Regina) has her own feelings on the film,” Ratner says. “We have to work that out in out relationship as well.”
The drinking water scene, for example, delves into complicated emotions for Regina, Ratner says. The frustration stems from the therapist being less than direct. The interaction surrounds a sometimes-difficult session, but also shows the way borderline patients’ emotions can change rapidly. Ratner hopes that it shows how viewing an interaction without context can reinforce negative impressions about the disorder, but that in full context, viewers can see the range of feelings an individual can feel in succession.
Ratner says those with borderline disorder have to suffer a certain societal stigma, but that film can offer a window into the lives of people sometimes viewed as unapproachable.