The power of film will be wielded in an attempt to raise the profile of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) – also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – with a special screening of lauded feature documentary UNREST at the Warrina Cinema Complex on 20 September, 2017.
UNREST follows the story of Jennifer Brea, a Harvard PhD student who is struck down by a mysterious and intensifying fever that eventually leaves her unable to even sit in a wheelchair, despite doctors telling Jennifer it’s “all in her head”. Jennifer is diagnosed with ME/CFS, and is set on a virtual voyage where she discovers millions of others confined to their homes and bedrooms by the same debilitating illness.
The story is all too familiar for Townsville’s Natasha Jackson, who is organising the Townsville screening of UNREST and has herself been diagnosed with ME/CFS.
“I got sick about three and a half years ago,”said Natasha. “I came home from work one day and that was it – my body gave out on me and couldn’t move limbs and, after a long period of time, I was diagnosed with ME/CFS.
“UNREST is made by someone in America who has ME/CFS and they opened it up for community screenings and I thought if we brought it to the local community then at least there’d be another bunch of people who can understand what I’ve been going through for the last three and a half years.
“ME/CFS is very difficult [to explain to people] because if you look at me there’s nothing obvious to tell you that I’m unwell. It’s very much an invisible illness. I’m actually, even at my worst, a lot better than other people, but trying to explain to people what they can’t see or feel is very difficult, so that’s one of the most amazing things about this film – even my family and my husband, who are incredibly understanding and see me at my worst, they had a complete new level of understanding after seeing the film.
“I think the amazing thing about the movie is that, although the main story follows people who have ME/CFS, it’s sort of any chronic illness or any invisible illness or disability – it just gives you an insight into what people could be going through in their private lives that you may not have thought of because you can’t see it,” Natasha said.
“The film has toured England, America and the Melbourne International Film Festival. It had two sell-out screening in Melbourne, and the interest was so great that they had an encore screening that they then had to move into their biggest theatre. For what initially looks like a very obscure, niche documentary; it is actually really going out of its bounds and they’ve done an amazing job. It’s also affecting people who have no connections to ME/CFS and it’s giving us, who normally have to advocate for ourselves, some healthy allies and allowing people to understand what we go through and get on board with us.
“If you look at it in it’s basics, it’s about someone who is bed-bound for the majority of her life who filmed herself or has, with the benefits of the internet, filmed other people around the world with ME/CFS. That doesn’t sound very exciting, but then they packaged it in a way – with the amazing music that was written by Bear McCreary who does Outlander and The Walking Dead and that helps obviously – I think it’s the raw content of it; letting everything out there, there’s no holding back this is the nitty-gritty of our lives. There’s also a lot of insight into some of the realtionships that people with MECFS have. the main character Jen and her husband Omar, their relationship is absolutely beautiful and my husband and I saw ourselves in this film – a lot of questions and discussions and moments they’ve been through, we’ve been through and it was almost word-for-word.
Jennifer said: “It’s my hope that in sharing this world and these people that I have come to profoundly love, that we can build a movement to transform the lives of patients with ME; accelerate the search for a cure; and bring a greater level of compassion, awareness, and empathy to millions upon millions of patients and their loved ones wrestling chronic illness or invisible disabilities.”
The Townsville Community Screening of UNREST will be held at Warrina Cinema Complex at 7pm on Wednesday, 20 September 2017. For tickets, go to TryBooking or visit the venue.