Last week the Salt Lake Film Society screened UNDER OUR SKIN at the Leonardo Theater as part of its series on health films. The theater was filled to capacity, with many viewers attesting that Lyme disease is completely ignored and discounted in Utah. One of the most satisfying results of the screening was that the film provided a venue for building not only awareness but also community. After the screening and impassioned Q&A, I heard that several viewers joined to create a new Utah Lyme disease support group. That the film is creating momentum on the grass roots level both to educate and create new alliances is very satisfying to us at Open Eye Pictures. And we would love to hear about the ways in which this may be happening in your community. So be sure to check out the UOS guestbook and share your own experience.
The most challenging part of this Western tour, however, was waking up at 5AM in Park City for a 6:45AM TV interview on KSL TV in Salt Lake City. Susan Swartz, one of the film’s executive producers and an accomplished environmental artist, accompanied me at the interview, during which we surely woke-up other Utahans with alarming Lyme stories and statistics. The next day, Susan invited me to attend a kick-off party for the Celebrity Ski Fest at Deer Valley Resort in Park City. There I bumped into actor Matthew Modine who, upon hearing about our film, immediately shared his own perilous journey with Lyme, telling me: “Lyme disease almost killed me.” Then, later, I was introduced to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who spearheaded the gala event to benefit the preservation of America’s waterways. A resident of Lyme-hot Cape Cod, he shared that his whole family had battled Lyme through the years, and so was well versed in Lyme. I immediately put a DVD of UNDER OUR SKIN in his hands and told him that I was sure he would still find the film eye-opening and beyond the realm of what he thought he knew.
The following day I moved on to New Mexico where the film played to almost sold out crowds in two screenings at the Santa Fe Film Festival. As had been the case in other film festivals, the festival organizers noted that UNDER OUR SKIN was one of the “most popular films” in the festival. Perhaps my earlier interview on Santa Fe’s public radio station KSFR helped fill seats. A long Q&A followed the Saturday night screening and local Lyme activist Diane Marie remarked on how important it was that the film was brought to Santa Fe, where so many “desert dwellers” suffer in solitude: “We were stunned at the interest in your well made, high power documentary.” As I ended my trip under the quiet beauty of falling snow, I was struck by the ubiquity of this hidden disease that levels us all, from desert dwellers to celebrities and stars.