New Short Film Examines the Relationship Between Mental Illness and Violence

There’s no smooth way to dive into this topic, so we might as well lay it out right away: the connection between mental illness and violence has tragically been in the news with alarming regularity lately, and it is absolutely a conversation that merits all the attention we can give. A new short film by first-time filmmaker Al Bernstein and director David Morrison address this issue, with the hopes of sparking constructive (and productive) discussion.

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The premise of WalledIN is one that is all at once familiar and uncomfortable to our modern sensibilities: a troubled young person in possession of a weapon appears to be on the brink of a violent act. In this case, the troubled person is a teen girl who is being questioned by her high school principal after a gun was found in her locker. The girl struggles with mental illness, but does that mean she is more likely to commit a violent act? Less likely? Just as likely as someone who has never been diagnosed? How do we as a society prevent someone who is struggling with mental illness from harming themselves and others?

Canadian actor-turned-filmmaker Al Bernstein considered all of these questions and more in the making of WalledIN, which took him four years to complete. Bernstein was the film’s lead writer and executive producer, as well as playing the challenging and complex role of the principal. He worked with closely with director and director of photography, David Morrison. Al and David hope that WalledIN will inspire audiences to keep the lines of conversation open when it comes to this difficult–and timely–topic.

“I want it to be a part of the conversation about mental health in our youth and the role of the educator,” Bernstein tells The Canadian Jewish News. “I want the film to be shown at schools, youth outreach programs, community centres and in therapists’ offices, as a doorway to a bigger conversation.”

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WalledIN premiered at the Toronto Independent Film Festival in September 2016, and has screened in numerous cities since then, including Louisville, Ottawa, New York City, and across the pond in England. Bernstein has big plans for the short, with an eye on expanding it into a feature.

“I’m working on the treatment of a feature film version of WalledIN,” Bernstein tells CJN. “I am going to tell the story of how the principal and the student arrived that day in the principal’s office by going back to the past – about six months.”

You can learn more about WalledIN and Bernstein’s other projects on the film’s site.

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