EXCLUSIVE: PBS has picked the critically acclaimed and truly heartbreaking documentary God Knows Where I Am, narrated by actress Lori Singer. It marks the directorial debut of Emmy- and Peabody-winning and Oscar-nominated Jedd Wider and Todd Wider. PBS acquires very few full-length feature documentaries per year, so this is significant.
God Knows Where I Am, about the mystery surrounding a woman’s death in an old farmhouse, will air on PBS in 2018. Thirteen/WNET New York Public Media, specifically, acquired the national broadcast rights from Juno Films and Wider Film Projects, and the film will be seen on PBS stations nationwide.
The film took four years to complete. “It was a fairly intensive process. We shot it over two years — two winters, two falls and a spring,” said Todd Wider, who noted that at one point they got caught in a blizzard. They shot the film in the same house where the woman was found. And it had no heat, no running water. “It was by far the hardest film we’ve ever done,” he said.
“Mental illness is a multi-faceted problem,” said the filmmaker. “The way our society grapples with the mentally ill and homelessness, was the inspiration of the piece. It came from an experience I had with a homeless person who broke into the place that I lived. This is a gigantic problem, morally, socially and economically. How do you take care of people this ill? It has an enormous economic impact. As a documentarian and as a physician, which is what I was before, to me wandering around New York, it’s stunning and deeply upsetting to see so many people on the streets. Would you allow a person with a heart attack or a gunshot wound to walk out of your emergency room? That is, in essence, what we are doing. Why is that okay at all?”
Wider also said that society has stigmatized mental illness and also there is “a laziness and denial around really grappling with issues surrounding civil liberties and the mentally ill. There is a saying, ‘You can die with your rights on.’ There is this whole thing about protecting the rights of the mentally ill, but with an absence of a free mind, you cannot exercise free will.” A lot of people who are mentally ill deny that they are sick.
That was the case with the subject of the film, which is the story of Linda Bishop, a mentally ill homeless woman who was found in an abandoned New Hampshire farmhouse together with a diary that documented a journey of starvation and the loss of sanity. A prisoner of her own mind, she survived on apples and rain water for nearly four months, waiting for God to save her during one of the coldest winters on record.
The national broadcast will accompany a wide digital release. God Knows Where I Am initially premiered theatrically in spring 2017 and played in multiple markets and in film festivals.
The documentary has been embraced by the mental health community and screened at national meetings of the nation’s leading mental health organizations as well as at a special seminar for members of Congress.
The Wider brothers previously produced Academy Award-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side as well as multiple Primetime Emmy winner Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer and Semper Fi: Always Faithful.
Elizabeth Sheldon, the founder and CEO of Juno Films, the North American distributor, and Wider Film Projects negotiated the PBS license with Stephen Segaller, VP Programming at WNET.
“God Knows Where I Am is a masterpiece, and the most powerful and moving film I have seen on mental illness. It is a work of art, with the power of a novel by Kundera or a play by Shakespeare,” said Segaller in a statement.