In this healing personal essay documentary, a filmmaker and her fellow classmates confront the trauma brought on by their years at a behavior modification boarding school.
At 16-years-old, Leslie Koren was struck by severe clinical depression and seemingly overnight, transformed from a socially active and healthy teenager to someone who was unable to function. Overwhelmed and leery of institutional options, Koren's parents sent her to Oakley School, an isolated free form boarding program for "problem youth" near Park City, Utah. While she went to Oakley voluntarily, most of her fellow classmates were there against their wishes.
Twelve years after graduating from Oakley, Koren experiences a post-traumatic attack as buried memories flood to the surface. Pressing ahead to alleviate her crippling PTSD and shame about her time at a behavior modification boarding school, she starts asking questions for which there most likely will be no answers, attempting to connect the dots of her disjointed memories. Speaking with her parents, former classmates, and school staff, who all have their own varied memories, she questions how such treatment of youth could be justified, let alone within a supposedly educational setting.
Reuniting with alumni for the first time in over a decade, Koren intends to piece together their perspectives and weave them into a tapestry that communicates the difficulty of assimilating this experience into their adult lives. Through this process, like many with PTSD, she wonders if she will ever be a reliable narrator of her own story and if not, how much does that matter?
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "The focus of the film is my confrontation with the trauma of being sent away for my depression. I reunite with alumni for the first time in over a decade.
As a filmmaker, I am not only interested in the inherent tension of acute trauma but am equally concerned with its reverberations, which in my experience flow forward in a person's timeline and often displace pieces of the past. Landscapes and sonic experiences are prominently featured to emphasize the physical and psychological remoteness of being cast away and the difficulty of reconciling the past with the present. Formal choices were made to visually prioritize and ask viewers to listen to graduates speak, while representation of the staff and former faculty of the school remained secondary.
What distinguishes my film is a personal look into the mental health of teens driven to the margins of the U.S. education and medical system. My directorial approach is to create a storytelling space that inspires teens dealing with these issues to find recognition in the testimony of adults speaking full-voiced about a vulnerable, voiceless time."
— Leslie Koren