He wasn’t even planning on submitting Resilience to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, says James Redford, whose production of Paper Tigers has been screening to sold-out audiences around the U.S. this year.
But late this summer, he shuffled some papers aside on his desk, and there was the application. It was due the next day. What the heck, he thought. I’ll submit it, as I have every other film I’ve made, but I won’t tell anyone. Why get people’s hopes up…again?
Two weeks ago, he was astonished to hear that Resilience was chosen to be an official selection. This gives the documentary great visibility and considerable boost for further distribution. It also brings information about the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, its import and how it’s being used to another large and influential group of people.
Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope looks at the birth of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and how it’s spawned a movement across the U.S. It focuses on the work of pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities. It features interviews with several leaders in the ACEs movement nationally and in communities, including Laura Lawrence and Laura Porter, and Drs. Robert Anda, Vincent Felitti, Nadine Burke Harris, Victor Carrion, Jack Shonkoff and David Johnson.
The ACE Study measured 10 types of childhood adversity, those that occurred before the age of 18. They are physical, verbal and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with mental illness, or
has been incarcerated or is abusing alcohol or other drugs; witnessing a mother being abused; losing a parent to divorce, separation or death. (Got Your ACE Score?)
Of the 17,000 mostly white, college-educated people with jobs and great health insurance who participated in the study, 64 percent had an ACE score of 1 or more; 12 percent had an ACE score of 4 or more. The researchers found that the higher a person’s ACE score, the greater the risk of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. For example, compared with someone who has an ACE score of zero, a person with an ACE score of 4 is 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, seven times more likely to become an alcoholic, and twice as likely to have heart disease, according to the data.
Resilience was the documentary that Redford and his co-executive producer, Karen Pritzker, set out to make when they first learned about the ACE Study in 2012. But after Redford visited Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, and heard the remarkable story about how the school had integrated trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs research (the epidemiology of ACEs and the neurobiology of toxic stress), he and Pritzker decided to make one documentary about Lincoln High School, and a companion documentary that focuses on the ACE Study, brain science and the ACEs movement.
Here’s the description, from the producers of Resilience:
Resilience opens with Dr. Robert Anda from the CDC in the 1990s, who explores a hunch that a difficult childhood led to greater risk for things like smoking and heart disease in adulthood. Three thousand miles away at kaiser Permanent in San Diego, a preventive medicine doctor discovers that more than half of his obesity patients had been sexually abused as children. By chance, the two doctors meet, and collaborate on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Although it was controversial to even think of asking patients about taboo subjects such as divorce, child abuse and neglect, the ACE Study produced a public health revelation. ACEs are now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from cancer to diabetes and addiction to depression. And with it, a new way of thinking about health and social problems. It’s not, “What’s wrong with you?” It’s “What happened to you?”
Resilience follows pioneering individuals who looked at the ACEs research and the emerging science of toxic stress and asked, “Why are we waiting?” Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician in San Francisco, intervenes early with her young patients who are at greater risk for diabetes and asthma as well as learning and behavior problems.
The Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven, Connecticut, provides mental health services for children by including the entire family in their programs. In an elementary school across town, students as young as kindergarteners recite “Miss Kendra’s List” — a kind of bill of rights for children — and learn ways of expressing and coping with stress.
Communities across the state of Washington brought together teachers, police officers, social service workers and government officials to learn about the brain science of adversity. Since implementing “trauma-informed” policies and practices, these communities have seen drastic reductions in rates of everything from dropping out of high school to teen pregnancies, and youth suicide to domestic violence.
Resilience chronicles the promising beginnings of a national movement to prevent childhood trauma, treat toxic stress, and greatly improve the health of future generations.
Resilience will screen five times between Jan. 22 and Jan. 30 at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. For more information, and to purchase tickets, go to ResilienceMovie.com/Sundance. And here’s the documentary’s Facebook page.