Dark documentary explores suicide
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 01:09
Students gathered in the Asian American Cultural Center on Thursday to watch “Don’t Change the Subject,” a darkly comedic documentary about suicide as a part of Suicide Prevention Week.
In the 2012 documentary, director Mike Stutz begins to talk to people who have attempted suicide, people whose family members have committed suicide, and members of his own family in order to gain a deeper understanding of his mother’s suicide.
When the documentary begins, Stutz is hosting a Day of the Dead celebration, explaining to his friends and family that he wanted his mom to be remembered as more than someone who killed herself.
The documentary includes some very personal discussions between Stutz and his sister, his brother and his stepmom, whose dad had also killed himself.
To go beyond conversations about suicide, Stutz explored the topic through various artistic mediums, including music, dance, illustrations, drama, comedy and clowning.
At times, the humor in the documentary crossed the line into very uncomfortable territory. The audience at the viewing shared in some nervous laughter as a stand-up comic tried to come up with jokes about suicide.
Of course, the documentary had many very meaningful moments as well. Stutz tried to encourage friends and family members of suicide victims to feel comfortable speaking about their loved ones.
In the discussion after the screening, students discussed whether or not the humor worked, and how their perceptions of people who commit suicide have changed.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be offensive, because I knew it was supposed to be funny,” said Amber Croft, a 1st-semester psychology major. “It was kind of unexpected that it made sense.”
Some students said that the interviews with people who have attempted suicide helped provide insight into what goes through their minds.
“The common feeling around people who commit suicide is that they’re selfish and we forget that they also lived a life worth celebrating,” said McMahon Residence Hall director Joliana Yee, who hosted this screening.
Yee also shared information about mental health services on campus, and advised the audience to continue discussions about suicide. “We still have a lot of work to do around being more accepting and more open,” she said. She said that conversations could help decrease the stigma around mental health issues.
“Don’t Change the Subject” was selected by the UConn Suicide Prevention Committee as part of a series of documentaries that have been presented by various cultural centers on campus.
Yee said that she was interested in this particular documentary because the director takes a more personal and unique look at the topic of suicide.
“It’s a healing project for the director,” said Yee. “It shows one way of working through personal pain.”