EXCLUSIVE: “The way we treat mentally ill in this country is insane.” That’s how one psychiatrist starkly describes the state of affairs in America’s broken mental health system, which is put under the microscope in Bedlam, a documentary directed by psychiatrist-filmmaker Kenneth Rosenberg. The pic is having its world premiere later this month at the Sundance Film Festival.

Check out the trailer that offers the first look at the docu, which bows in Park City in the fest’s U.S. Documentary Competition section. It will also air likely later this year as part of PBS’ Independent Lens series.

Bedlam
Upper East Films

Rosenberg, fueled by his own sister’s battles with mental illness, captures footage shot over a five-year period at a Los Angeles County psych ER, revealing the sometimes horrific reality of a deinstitutionalized system in which emergency rooms often provide the only refuge for the severely mentally ill who need care. Most often because of overcrowding, patients are detained, medicated, and tossed back onto the streets. Most are homeless, and petty crime and drug addiction land many in prison, where they are detained and medicated again, creating a tragic loop.

“The state of mental illness in this country is beyond the trite notion of crisis,” says new California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is among the voices who weigh in on the issue (Black Lives Matters co-founder Patrisse Cullors, whose brother Monte is a survivor of this broken system, is also interviewed). Adds Newsom: “It’s at a point of comedic absurdity the number of people that’s we’ve just completely given up on.”

The Upper East Films docu was produced by Rosenberg and Peter Miller. Lois Vossen and Sally Jo Fifer are executive prodcuers, Alan Barker and Joan Churchill are co-producers and Shana Swanson is supervising producer.

The pic bows in Park City on January 28 at the Egyptian Theatre.