Subjects: Physical and Mental Health, American Studies
Voices From Within explores the complicated process of recovery through the eyes of two long-term residents of Saint Elizabeths, Washington DC's public psychiatric hospital. Found not guilty by reason of insanity Lew and Jimmy, through the intimacy of video diaries, share their daily struggles with mental illness, isolation, and the journey for redemption. We learn how they feel to have spent most of their lives under constant surveillance, where their every action is deemed a symptom of a diagnosis, and their freedom of movement is in constant negotiation by a complicated system of restrictions and privileges.
By putting the cameras directly into their hands, we witness their transformation from examined to examiner. The film takes us through their daily routines, and their ongoing struggle to leave the hospital and transition back into the community. One in four adults—approximately 57.7 million Americans— experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. And yet mental illness remains taboo and stigma.
Voices From Within provides individuals with mental illness the ability to tell their own stories of recovery; to support their healing process through building confidence and encouraging introspection; and to provide a platform for these individuals to use personal storytelling to connect to the wider DC community.
Through an in-depth community engagement strategy, Voices From Within aims to humanize an often misrepresented population, sparking dialogue about mental illness and encouraging a deeper understanding of the complexities of recovery.
About the filmmakers
Joy Haynes is an attorney, an actor and a producer. She attended the Duke Ellington High School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., earned a BFA in theater from Stephens College in Columbia, MO, and received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. As an immigration attorney, Joy has helped thousands of people live their American dream. As an actor, she works regularly in TV, films, and industrials. With multiple award-winning short films and television pilots under her producer belt, she is most proud of her documentary "Voices From Within," a view of life inside a mental institution.
Ellie Walton is a documentary filmmaker and educator, passionate about sharing stories of everyday revolutionaries and misfits. Her work has been an evolving experiment in participatory filmmaking, where subjects are active storytellers, as she hands over the boom pool, shares the lens and brings them into the editing room. Her feature documentaries have collaborated with public housing residents fighting displacement (Chocolate City, 2007), theater artists imagining change (Walk With Me, 2012), teenagers overcoming violence (Fly By Light, 2015), and young women rewriting tradition (Brave Girls, 2018). Ellie is grateful for all those who have supported, collaborated and shared their stories with her along the way. They have made it possible for Ellie to hold onto the belief that films have the power to reveal the beauty in surprising places, inspire dialogue across difference, and make a more compassionate world irresistible.