Milwaukee Film Blog

posted by Guest on September 30th, 2013

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There are few statistics more sobering than those involving U.S. soldiers and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s estimated that one out of every five soldiers returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD and of that number, only half seek treatment. Halve that number again and you have the number of soldiers who receive “minimally adequate” treatment. As a country, we’re trying desperately to do right by our returning veterans and ensure them the medical care necessary to integrate fully into civilian life, but clearly there is still more work to be done. Luckily, cutting-edge researchers are hard at work on solutions to this problem and the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival is hosting one of them alongside a documentary about their work.

Professor Richard J. Davidson is the director of UW-Madison’s Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and his research is unlocking doors within the human mind that we’ve never even thought to look for, let alone open. We’ve all heard the stories about the minimal percentage of our brain we actually utilize in everyday life, but Davidson’s research points towards the mind’s ability to heal itself, to literally change its physical structure. And the results of his research are heartening not only for suffering veterans but also for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Free the Mind follows a year of Davidson’s (one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People circa 2006) research, specifically his work with two soldiers back from the battlefield, and one young boy suffering from ADHD whose anxiety regarding simple tasks like riding in an elevator fill his life with pervasive dread. Using breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises, he works alongside his three subjects with startling results. Davidson was convinced by the Dalai Llama himself to apply the standards of research for depression and anxiety towards kindness and compassion, which led to these breakthroughs. It’s an absolutely absorbing look at the cutting edge of neuroscience and a reminder of just how powerful our brains can be if we’re attuned to their capabilities. Davidson will be here in person to explain his research better than my words ever could, and it should prove to be one of the most enlightening events we’ll provide at this year’s festival.

FREE THE MIND screens today (Monday), 7 PM at the Oriental Theatre. Advanced tickets are no longer available online, but may be purchased at any film festival box office location. Professor Richard J. Davidson (the subject of the film) is scheduled to appear at tonight's screening, and for a Q & A immediately afterward.

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Tom Fuchs is returning for a fourth year as our featured festival blogger, telling you all about our daily festival picks. Tom has been on our shorts programming committee for all five years of the Milwaukee Film Festival, and wrote all of the film descriptions for this year's film festival program book.