Monday, June 25, 2018

YouTube Body Horror: Penny Lane on Her Morgellons Disease Doc, The Pain of Others

In the era of fake news and alternative facts, and of people constructing their own custom-made versions of reality, Penny Lane’s The Pain of Others feels very timely, to say the least. Defying any expectations and preconceived notions, Lane’s perfectly titled “body-horror doc” acts as a challenging and thought-provoking sociological study of one unusual YouTube community (which, with Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Our New President, also on the fest circuit this year, makes me think “YouTube behavioral psych” might soon become a thing).

The Pain of Others weaves together the video diaries of three women suffering from Morgellons disease, a term given to a scientifically unrecognized series of symptoms that seem straight out of a Cronenberg flick (crawling sensations and thread-like fibers emerging from the skin!), and it leaves the viewer with conflicting emotions and more questions than answers. Indeed, watching the film before its Rotterdam premiere I went from laughing and rolling my eyes to getting angry at these “con artists” to feeling ashamed that I was being dismissive of mental illness to wondering if one woman was a psychologically disturbed fraudster, another just lonely and mentally ill, and on and on. In other words, these psychically distressed ladies defy any easy categorization — much like Lane’s entire body of work.

Prior to the film’s June 28th NYC premiere at BAMcinemaFest, Filmmaker was fortunate enough to catch up with the very busy director who also has two shorts, Nellie Bly Makes the News and Normal Appearances (debuting in NYC as part of the Rooftop Films shorts program on July 14th), currently making the festival rounds. The Pain of Others will be released exclusively on Fandor July 1st.

To read my interview with the boundary-pushing documentarian visit Filmmaker magazine.

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