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An Evening With Jennifer Brea, Luminary Behind Knockout Film 'Unrest'

Friday 6 November 2020


From US newspaper The Stanford Daily:


(Photo: Shella Films)

An evening with Jennifer Brea, luminary behind knockout film ‘Unrest’

By Malia Mendez
October 27, 2020
2020 The Stanford Daily Publishing Corporation.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, Stanford’s Medicine and the Muse hosted a discussion with Jennifer Brea, an academic turned myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) activist and independent filmmaker. Brea’s 2011 documentary film “Unrest,” which med school professor Jonathan Berek called “a cause célèbre,” mosaics poignant B-roll, tender interviews and archival footage to give viewers a glimpse into the daily barriers posed to ME patients. Also referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), ME is ill-understood by the general public and stigmatized by doctors and comedians alike.

“Unrest”’s opening scene is an unsettling cold open, wherein Brea with labored breathing and fetal movements crawls her way into bed; the sequence closes with her physical collapse and our visceral discomfort. Immediately addressing the elephant in the room, Berek asked Brea why she began recording such brutal moments with ME like this one. She answered that the footage began as evidence to close the “gap in between what was going on behind closed doors and what [she] was experiencing when [she] had enough energy to go to the doctor,” who assured her that she was “too young to be sick.” Since then, these humble home videos have led to a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, a place on the shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and a staggering 100% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes.


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