Narrative Advocacy: Mad Justice and Languages of Compassion
By: Jonah Bossewitch
Published: 5/9/2011
Uploaded: 06/12/2011
Uploaded by: Jonah Bossewitch
Tags: advocacy, mad gifts, mad pride, narrative, narrative medicine, Psychiatry

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Description/Abstract: In this essay I critically examine the film Crooked Beauty as a model for an emerging style of documentary filmmaking that blends and extends the boundaries of narrative advocacy and cinematic convention. The film defies many of the traditional sub-genres of documentary film it cannot be easily categorized as either historical, investigative, issue-oriented, ethnographic, or biopic. Crooked Beauty poignantly refutes the prevailing medical gaze towards mental illness by manifesting a visionary alternative of mental wellness. It conjures this alternative through the rhetorical device of an intensely personal narrative spoken over a backdrop of visually poetic imagery. The film's storytelling embodies a distinct perspective that provokes and challenges mainstream diagnostic paradigms. Its discursive style resonates deeply with the language, aesthetics, and values that have been painstakingly cultivated over the years by communities of radical mental health activists in peer-support groups and workshops across the country. This holographic work recapitulates decades of painstaking reflection, and can be read as a post-modern manifesto one that speaks from the subjective 'I's of personal experiences, and raises questions and contradictions instead of making grandiose assertions and categorical declarations.