Darrin Klimek’s documentary Mandeep is a 6-minute portrait of Mandeep Sanghera; a 23-year-old photographer in Vancouver who suffers from severe Tourette’s syndrome. Although it’s short, it’s a powerful piece that will tear your heart out and open your eyes as to how someone lives with this syndrome in a world that doesn’t understand it.
Criticize This! spoke with Klimek about the film, which is screening as part of the Short Cuts Canada programme at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Read our Q&A below.
Brian McKechnie: How did you meet Mandeep?
Darrin Klimek: I know Mandeep because of the @Random Online Documentary Project that was being done by an ad agency in Toronto called Saatchi & Saatchi. They were looking for directors to make short docs on people with Tourette’s syndrome. The films were to be compiled and screened online together so that people could see the range of variation of the syndrome and understand more about it. I was introduced to Mandeep through the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada. Mandeep lives in Vancouver. When Saatchi and the Tourette Foundation found out I’m originally from Vancouver they asked me if I would fly out there to make a film about him. I jumped at the chance.
BM: What made you want to document him further?
DK: I wanted to document him because I thought he and Tourette’s would be an amazing subject. I thought it would be incredibly interesting to find out more about the syndrome and what causes it. Also I have a younger half brother with autism. I know what it’s like for people to judge others when they don’t know someone has a condition. Awareness is half the battle and can make the lives of people with disabilities that much easier.
BM: When you approached him about the film, was he open to doing it right away?
DK: He was 100% into it right from the start. He’s very charismatic and in no way afraid of being on camera. He’s the perfect subject because he doesn’t change once the camera’s on.
BM: Would you ever consider making a feature documentary with him?
DK: I would love to make a feature length doc with him. If I met someone either at the festival or down the line that’s willing to put up the money and executive produce a feature length doc about him I’d drop everything to do it.
BM: There’s an emotional moment in the film where he mentions friends and girls and how no one sticks around for long. And from the looks of his apartment he lives a very solitary life. Yet for the most part he seems like a happy person. What keeps him motivated?
DK: He is very lonely. His condition keeps him home quite a bit. I think what keeps him going is that he believes he’ll get better with time. I think he also believes that medical science might come up with a therapy or drug that could help control his tics. Also he’s just a very brave and courageous young man.
BM: Was there anything about Mandeep that came out on camera that surprised you?
DK: What surprised me, but shouldn’t have, about Mandeep was how angry at people he was. He doesn’t have a lot of true friends. I think his condition is too much for people to handle and they tend to not return his calls and stop coming around. That of course would be hurtful and that anger came out from time to time during the course of filming. It was surprising at first but now I totally get it.
BM: How important is getting the film into TIFF for you?
DK: I can’t stress enough the importance of this film getting into TIFF. I wouldn’t be talking with you if the film didn’t get into TIFF and less people would be aware of Tourette’s. Also, on a professional level, it’s opened up a lot of doors and created some opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. It’s been extremely positive.
BM: What do you hope the audience gets out of the film?
DK: I hope the audience comes away from the film with a better understanding of Tourette’s but also compassion and tolerance for those who suffer from it.
BM: Do you have any other film projects in the works?
DK: Currently I don’t have any other projects on the go. I’m in the process of building my commercial reel. This way I can make some money to fund more documentaries in the future. I’m staying focused on trying to get funding for a feature length film on Tourette’s and Mandeep.
Mandeep plays as part of the Short Cuts Canada programme at TIFF 2011. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from Mandeep. Courtesy TIFF.