Leo Hurwitz was a pioneer in the development of documentary film in America, but he wasn’t the only pioneer in the Hurwitz family. His older sisters Rosetta (Rose) and Marie were pioneers in bringing child psychoanalysis to the United States. They were among the first child analysts to train with Anna Freud in Vienna in the mid-1920s and, on return to New York City; they were the first child analysts in America. Yet, because of the controversy over lay analysts in this country, Marie and Rose’s significant role in the history of child analysis is largely unrecognized. This is my...

Memories and fantasies originating in childhood influence the course of a life as it unfolds. So do childhood experiences. If someone has a strong creative spirit, as Leo Hurwitz did, these impressionable early times find powerful forms of expression in their creative work. This is certainly true for Leo. Leo’s films speak for those abandoned by the societies they live in and for those who have no voice. We already know Leo’s family of origin had a strong social conscience. Yet, what are some of the personal, early, even unconscious sources leading to Leo’s passion? Thanks to direct quotes from family...

PTSD always follows trauma. No traumatized person is “strong” enough to escape it. Yet, for complicated reasons, Post Traumatic Stress symptoms are too frequently off everyone’s radar, particularly the radar of the one suffering. The reasons are both straight out of the DSM-V and very individual. Jeff Bauman’s story in David Gordon Green’s powerful new film, Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s deeply moving performance as Jeff and Tatiana Maslany’s complex and engagingly real portrayal of his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, is a good place to start understanding what happens after trauma. ...

Leo Hurwitz (1909 – 1991), pioneer documentary filmmaker, was part of a small group who founded America’s documentary film and invented the social documentary form. According to his son, Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s films “exemplified a new way of making films about the real world, and about ideas that help us to understand it. He and his group saw these films as an antidote to the films of Hollywood that gave the audience dreams of escape.” Leo’s films spoke to various human rights concerns; problems he became aware of, early in his life, growing up in his socially conscious family. Leo...

The big question in Josh Kreigman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary Weiner is: “What’s wrong with Anthony Weiner?” Why would a political official destroy his reputation and his career? Why would he humiliate his wife? Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s Last Word posed this million-dollar question to Weiner on national TV: “What is wrong with you…I mean psychiatrically?” O’Donnell’s question is exactly what everyone is asking. It’s a complex question about a sadly troubled man. The answers aren’t easily visible. Watching Weiner, we see Anthony Weiner pulled into a vortex of something dark and disturbed in his mind; something he can’t...

LOVE – Is it real? What does it take to make it work? The Netflix series Love by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Leslie Arfin raises some important questions. What takes an attraction farther than a romantic fantasy? What allows two people who’ve been hurt in the past to get beyond the fear of being hurt again? Sometimes we don’t know how to ask these questions. Sometimes we ask them after a relationship fails. Yet, there’s always a next time and it’s never too late to find the answers.In ten episodes, we get to know Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust) and Mickey...

“I sing because I can experience a lot of feelings…” Janis Joplin had no one to hear her feelings. The most chilling part of Amy Berg’s documentary, Janis: Little Girl Blue, is to witness the cold formality of Mother and Father Joplin. No one could miss Janis’ hunger for love. Less obvious were the roots of that hunger: the trauma of a childhood with impenetrable parents. Dorothy and Seth Joplin, in their uncanny similarity to Grant Wood’s "American Gothic” farmer with pitchfork and wife, were emotionally remote and had no warmth. Neither could hear Janis’ feelings of loneliness and hurt. Janis...

What is lurking below the surface of a highly intellectualized philosophy professor’s emotional control? We find out in Losing Ground, filmed in 1982 but recently released by Milestone Films, noteworthy for being the first feature length film produced and directed by a Black American woman. Kathleen Collins, who died an early death of cancer in 1988, became passionate about film while doing graduate studies in literature in Paris. Collins believed a screenplay is a film essay and wrote Losing Ground with the carefully crafted point of view at the heart of any good piece of writing. Her talent for cinematic...

Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2016 Oscar nominated documentary, The Look Of Silence, is a riveting exploration of the Indonesian genocide’s complicated psychological aftermath. In 1965-1967, the military dictatorship killed over a million assumed Communists opposed to their rule. In the film, we follow the Rukun family, centered on 44-year-old Adi, all unable to grieve the brutal murder of son and brother, Ramli. This loss has destroyed their lives. Adi, an optometrist, approaches the killers on the pretext of examining their eyes, trying to make sense of his brother’s death. Facing the past is the only way to break free of a very...

Asif Kapadia’s 2016 Oscar winning Best Documentary, Amy, is a deeply truthful portrayal of the troubled psychological life of 6-time Grammy winner, Amy Winehouse. Amy predicted fame would drive her mad and, in a sense, it did. What the film makes clear to me, as a psychoanalyst, is that her complex fear of losing what she had, whether musical fame or love, was the real problem. We touch the surface of Amy’s fears in these lyrics from What Is It About Men: “my Freudian fate. History repeats itself. It fails to die.” The anxieties rooted in her “Freudian fate” were...