A full-length documentary that began as an assignment for a Law School class will air this week on KCET.
Petra Brando made “Cursing at the Sun” in lieu of the customary final paper or take-home exam in Elyn Saks’ Mental Health Law class.
“The class raised some really important, very difficult questions and inspired me to look for … some answers through people who are living it every day,” Brando said in a 1998 USC Chronicle article. She graduated that year from the Law School.
The 70-minute documentary, which airs at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, depicts the plight of the mentally ill in the wake of systematic de-institutionalization. “Cursing” features interviews with 10 individuals whose psychotic episodes have resulted in incarceration, commitment to an institution or homelessness, and they give harrowing accounts of life without the proper treatment. The best known is actress Margot Kidder, who in 1996 spent three days wandering Los Angeles suburbs, disheveled and disoriented. Also featured are interviews with mental health experts, as well as law enforcement officers who are specially trained to work with the mentally ill.
USC voices include Saks, holder of the Orrin B. Evans Professorship in Law and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences, and Stephen Hayes, a clinical professor of psychiatry at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. Also featured is Glenn Currier, the former director of emergency psychiatry at LAC+USC Medical Center.
“It’s like a dream come true for a professor to have a student get so involved in a project and really run with it,” said Saks.
Brando, the daughter of actor Marlon Brando, is now an associate attorney at Edelstein, Laird and Sobel, a Los Angeles entertainment law firm. Last summer, Los Angeles’ Department on Disability conducted a screening of “Cursing” at City Hall.