I wonder, if I never climbed into Amy's VW Bug, where would I be now? What kind of life would I have? It was 1972. Listening to Joni Mitchell on a worn 8-track, I was 17, and the road was wide open in front of me.
I woke up in the ambulance. I had a collapsed lung and needed six stitches to my head. Three days later I was sent home: healed, they said. The following spring, my head started jerking back and forth and up and down. It felt like someone else was in control of my body. That was the year The Exorcist came out. I felt an unsettling connection to Linda Blair.
- Laurel Chiten, filmmaker of TWISTED
Chiten saw doctor after doctor, until one of them finally figured out what was wrong with her: she had dystonia, a neurological disorder that forces your muscles into abnormal, often painful, movements or postures. Dystonia can affect one muscle group, or your whole body; it can cause your body to twist. It is as though your brain has a mind of its own.
In TWISTED, the agonies and challenges of dystonia are revealed to a broad film-viewing audience for the first time. Chiten narrates the film, weaving the stories of three dystonia sufferers as they seek treatment, reckon with their disease and ponder weighty decisions.
"He's always taken care of his body and always been in great physical shape. And his body failing him, that's something he's having a real hard time... accepting."
- Cathy Brogan, Pat's wife
Basketball coach and athlete Pat Brogan was riding his bike in the pre-dawn darkness, training for a triathlon, when he was sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver and left for dead.
Brogan woke up in a trauma center. Months later, he began to notice that something was terribly wrong: his head was wrenched severely to the right, and without great effort, he couldn't make it go back.
Shari Tritt has generalized dystonia, a genetic form that affects her whole body. As a child, she had a radical form of brain surgery, which improved her dystonia throughout much of her body, but ultimately left her unable to speak clearly.
"I really was taken aback about... her absolute joie de vivre. Very spontaneous: to dance in the street and to sing out lyrics of a song even though nobody but Shari knew what she was saying – it's infectious. How could you not love that?"
- Ira Tritt, Shari's husband
"Dystonia is a very tough opponent, just like a pickup game, you talk to anybody playin' against me, now, they may win one game, but we're playing again, cause I'm not givin' in."
- Pat Brogan
Producer, Writer & Director
Director of Photography
Andy Abrahams Wilson
Animation and Design
Original Music by
P. Andrew Willis
Second Principal Camera
Twisted is produced by Blind Dog Films for the Independent Television Service (ITVS).
© 2006, Blind Dog Films. All Rights Reserved.
Then, the Internet gave her a voice, and in a chat room one day she met Ira – who loves to talk. It was a match made in heaven.
Like Shari, photographer and filmmaker Remy Campbell also has generalized
dystonia. She used to walk bent over at a 45-degree angle and suffered
constant pain. Five years ago, Campbell decided to undergo risky, experimental
surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation, DBS for short, in which electrodes
are implanted in the brain as a "pacemaker" for the brain's electronic
activity. The result gave her back control over her body. She now walks
upright and is pain free.
But there is no cure for dystonia. Therapies that bring relief to one patient may be useless for another. Pat Brogan, whose pain had sidelined his promising career, was willing to try anything to get his life back. Botox injections, known to cure certain types of dystonia, didn't work. Medications had too many side effects. With no other option, he decided to gamble on DBS – and all its risks.
TWISTED follows Brogan into the operating room and beyond as he improves for a time, only to have the dystonia return worse than ever.
In the year following his surgery, Brogan embarks on a heartbreaking roller coaster ride, enduring harrowing new symptoms that stumps his doctors and threatens to rob him of everything that is dear to him: his new job, his marriage and his sense of himself. Even as Brogan continues to fight, he can't help but wonder, will dystonia have him at its mercy for the rest of his life?
A story of courage and hope, TWISTED takes us on a journey of discovery into a world of social stigma, pain, and loss, where against steep odds, the human heart nevertheless prevails.
What people are saying about TWISTED
"TWISTED is an extraordinary film that captures both what it is like to live with dystonia and to go through Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, but even goes beyond that: it’s a love story, a drama, a story about the human experience, and an educational piece all in one. TWISTED should be shown in all medical schools and hospitals.”
Dr. Mahlon Delong
* * * 1/2
The Santa Fe New Mexican
“…The remarkable thing about Chiten’s documentary is the vibrant tenderness and great good humor with which she introduces us to the lives of these extradorinarily ordinary people who endure incessant misunderstanding.”
Santa Fe Reporter
Blind Dog Films