Art, film and recovery

‘Writing the world backwards’, 9 mins. documentary film, dir. Angela Robson

Lorna Collins experienced a catastrophic brain injury at the age of 18 and spent the next 20 years going in and out of psychiatric hospitals, including the infamous Esquirrol asylum in Paris, subjected to humiliating treatment and assault, before art became her pathway to recovery from crippling anorexia. This film follows her evolution from comatose patient to flourishing artist, taking us on a journey into her darkly strange and cinematic imagination. Viewers are invited to inhabit and see beyond the stages that define mental illness. Filmed by Lorna Collins, directed by Angela Robson.

This film has been screened and awarded in 7 festivals around the globe:

This Is My Brave International Mental Health Film Festival, Canberra, Australia 10/10/2021.

REEL RECOVERY FILM FESTIVAL, streamed on Film Festival Flix, 11/11/2021.

Doncaster ArtBomb Festival, Doncaster, UK, 5-8/08/21.

FACE Film Festival, Young Creative Leaders, online 24/11/2021.

The Short Film Breaks, ‘BEST MENTAL HEALTH FILM Silver Elephant Medal’, 2021.

Courage Film Festival, Semi-finalist, Berlin, Germany, 2021.

17th NYC Mental Health Film Festival, Village East Cinema in New York City, 18/02/2023.

Making the film ‘Writing the world backwards’ played an instrumental part of the journey of recovery that the film itself opens. During my illness, making art — painting, writing, performance, film — helped me find a narrative that would say what words could not. Being creative, I could express what was inexpressible (sheer agony and torment). What I produced (art, words, film) then provided both testimony of my experiences and medicine, to ease the pain I felt. The art media opened truth, catharsis, connection with others, and empathy.

Art enables you – us – to express our thoughts, feelings, situation, ourselves. This process relieves what we might be finding difficult. Everyone has a different struggle. But creativity helps us approach and iterate our struggles.

Film provides a medium to tell my story. I say things in this film that I have not spoken about before. The film gets to the raw, elemental stages of my psyche, and builds a narrative about recovery. This makes me feel both highly vulnerable and empowered. I open myself in this film; you can see me. 

I hope to offer hope. The film shows how I made a full recovery from my illness. I found wellness and opened a new life for myself, through my creativity. Art sets me free.

How did or does it do that? By facilitating a space for me to be seen, heard and valued –warts and all. I share with you parts of my weak, most exposed self; I emerge, all the stronger for doing so. It is not just about making the artwork or the film; it is the exhibition, the screening, the reception, and what comes afterwards. This is why it is so important to show you my film; you then become part of my healing. Please watch and tell me what you think.

The end of the film is the beginning of my new existence, with no space for illness or disorder. Pure creativity, joy, and celebration.