A documentary that destigmatizes: A review of AZPM’s “Not Broken”
By Ambur Wilkerson
In October, Arizona Public Media mental health reporter, Gisela Telis, hosted a free screening of AZPM’s documentary, “Not Broken,” at The University of Arizona’s Gallagher Theater. The no-cost viewing, which was shown in collaboration with UArizona Campus Health’s Counseling and Psych Services granted audience members access to free popcorn and a beverage. Following the documentary, Telis moderated a panel with four cast members from the documentary.
Directed by Bob Lindbergh and supported by the David and Lura Lovell Foundation, “Not Broken” is an hour-long documentary that discusses mental health through the lens of seven young adults.
Viewers are introduced to Brynn, Andrea, Gabriel, Michael, Brenda, Angel and Rickey, a cast with varied racial backgrounds, sexual orientations and mental illness diagnoses. Of the seven, Brynn, Brenda and Angel took part in the panel.
The documentary gives us insight into the cast member’s day-to-day experiences, as well as intimate moments with their family and friends. The documentary educates viewers by shining a light on the mental illnesses the stars of the documentary say they each have. It also featured therapists and counselors who shared their knowledge about mental health.
While the documentary does an exceptional job of addressing mental illness and destigmatizing it by showing the seven featured people living life and getting the necessary help and support they need, there are some transitional flaws in the storytelling. Certain cast member’s backgrounds were lacking.
Some of the storylines were even neglected, such as Andrea and Rickey’s. After audiences are introduced to them, that’s all we hear. By not telling their stories as in-depth as the others, it creates a sense of confusion. We’re led through a structural arc with the other cast members, where at first we see them at a low point and then see them progress and receive help, coinciding with the documentary’s message that those who have mental illnesses are capable of living fulfilling lives. Andrea and Ricky’s storyline did not receive the same attention.
There were also abrupt transitions, such as Brynn’s. First, viewers are introduced to Brynn and learn that she self-harms. After venturing through other storylines, we’re suddenly brought back to Brynn, and she’s packing to go to college. Oddly enough, Brynn’s pursuit of higher education was never mentioned. A prior mention of Brynn’s interests and plans would’ve been nice and possibly had a bigger impact on audiences with its relatability.
Don’t let the productional flaws deter you from watching this documentary, for it truly is an insightful body of work. Sure, filling in storyline gaps would strengthen the execution of the message, but nonetheless, “Not Broken” still succeeds at helping end the stigma surrounding mental health, educating viewers on mental illness and highlighting the perseverance and resilience that those with mental illnesses posses.
*If you need someone to talk to, please call the national hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.
Ambur Wilkerson is a 24-year-old content creator who loves storytelling. She received her B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing from California State University, San Bernardino in 2016 and her M.A. in journalism at The University of Arizona in 2019. She’s invested in topics such as social issues, mental health, entertainment, beauty, and lifestyle. To learn more about Ambur and her work, follow her on Instagram at @theamburnicole.
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