MY BROTHER, MADNESS AND SURVIVAL
Massachusetts – IMAGINING ROBERT: MY BROTHER, MADNESS AND SURVIVAL,
a new one-hour film by the award-winning filmmaking team of Lawrence
Hott and Diane Garey of FLORENTINE FILMS/HOTT PRODUCTIONS, Inc., is
a story of two brothers, one who has suffered the horrors and sadness
of mental illness for thirty-eight years--the other, a prize-winning
novelist who has been his brother's primary caretaker through those
ROBERT: MY BROTHER, MADNESS AND SURVIVAL, based on the book by Jay Neugeboren,
is a true story – true, not only for the protagonists, but also
for millions of other Americans. It tells the story of Robert Neugeboren,
who has suffered from schizophrenia his entire adult life and his brother
Jay, novelist and retired University of Massachusetts writing professor,
who has been his guardian for the past twenty-five years.
who is now fifty-nine years old, experienced his first episode of mental
illness during his freshman year at the City College of New York. Since
then he has been hospitalized and re-hospitalized for mental illness
(with diagnoses of schizophrenia and manic depression) more than fifty
times. For thirty-eight years he has lived within the mental health
system, his treatment and prognosis changing with each new doctor and
each new "cure." Jay often refers to his brother as a walking
archaeological dig of mental health treatment in the twentieth century.
very history of the ways in which our mental health system has dealt
with the mentally ill has been passing through my brother’s mind
and body,” Jay says.
have heard parts of this story for a long time,” says Hott, producer
and director. “Jay is a friend and neighbor, and occasionally
he would tell me about his brother Robert and how much time and energy
he had to devote to him. When the book came out I heard Jay give a reading
and saw the impact the story had on the audience. I was convinced that
this would be wonderful material for a film.”
ROBERT looks very different from all the other films in the FLORENTINE
FILMS/HOTT PRODUCTIONS, Inc. portfolio. A distinct difference is Hott
serving as the camera person removing the interposition of the camera
man between him and the subject. Hott interacts very directly with Robert
and Jay as they look and speak directly to him through out the film.
The effect is that Hott unintentionally becomes a character resulting
in a film where the audience sees not just two people on the screen
talking about their lives but instead sees two people and the filmmaker
brings sensitivity to the editing of IMAGINING ROBERT infusing it with
a combination of clarity, motion and humor. Garey avoids mellifluous,
flowing cutting, which would burden the work with overwrought sentimentality.
Instead she uses very sharp and rapid cuts matched with unexpected soundtrack
choices – such as the bongo music in the opening scenes. As an
example, during the scene in the halfway house where Robert is almost
bouncing off the walls having a bad day, the editing is almost bouncing
off the walls as well. Garey skillfully brings a rhythm to the scene
that fits the emotions that Robert’s going through.
“We have often chosen films that on the surface people might think
are downers, like the history of tuberculosis, for example, or even
the ACLU film, which is full of people’s rights being crushed.
But we put a lot of effort into making the films funny. Entertaining.
And here’s a film about mental illness that could be very depressing,
handled in a certain way, but I think most people who see it, they laugh
every other minute in this film because something funny is happening.
Even if it is ironically, sadly funny, it’s still funny. And it
holds your attention.”
ROBERT was premiered at Smith College in April of 2002 and was recently
awarded an Honorable Mention in the 34th Annual Media Awards Competition
of the National Council on Family Relations and has received notice
by as a “exemplary film” by the Council on Foundations in
Washington, DC. IMAGINING ROBERT has been screened at the 11th Annual
Woods Hole Film Festival and the Northampton (Massachusetts) Independent
Foundation for the Humanities is working in tandem with FLORENTINE FILMS/HOTT
PRODUCTIONS, Inc. to use the completed film to prompt dialogue about
mental illness on a local, state and national level. Each public screening
is designed to bring people from different backgrounds – patients,
families, police, social workers, lawyers, and health-care providers
– together with Hott and Jay and Robert Neugeboren to discuss
the topics raised in the film.
ROBERT: MY BROTHER, MADNESS AND SURVIVAL is funded by the Massachusetts
Foundation for the Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment
for the Humanities, the Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans
for the Arts, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship
for Mental Health Journalism, and the Massachusetts Media Merit Award
a program of the Boston Film and Video Foundation and the Massachusetts
about the film and dialogue series is available at www.imaginingrobert.org.
The film is available through its distributor, Films for the Humanities
& Sciences, 800-257-5126, www.films.com.
R. Hott and Diane Garey have been producers with FLORENTINE FILMS/HOTT
PRODUCTIONS, Inc. since 1979. Almost 25 years later they have received
an Emmy, two Academy Award nominations, five American Film Festival
Blue Ribbons, eleven CINE Golden Eagles, a George Foster Peabody Award
and over one hundred national and international awards. Their work has
been screened at a variety of major film festivals, including the New
York Film Festival, Telluride, and Women in the Director's Chair. See
for more information.