The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #7 Oct. 24, 2003
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starIn The Spotlight:
Dr. Fuat Ulus reports on his several recent outings in the press and in public spheres, including his own article and an interview with him published in The Dallas Morning News. Unfortunately, the paper's archives are available only on a pay-per-view or subscription basis. Fuat also says he was interviewed for an article in Shape Magazine due out in November and for an article in Dialogue Magazine, an academic bi-monthly publication in Silver Spring MD. The publication date for the latter article has not yet been determined. He also said he planned to present a lecture on movie therapy to 20 Art Therapy students at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA. and is working on setting up an internship program with the school. In addition, he and his colleagues at Millcreek Community Hospital have begun a weekly film series oriented toward neutralizing mental health stigma and discussing issues related to therapy professionals and entertainment. He also was a guest speaker for an ecumenical seminar for ministers in which he emphasized the power of movies in promoting the positive aspects of life. Congratulations Fuat for all the fine work and leadership you are showing.

starNew CT Resources:
I recently discovered this site, Really Good Films, which is devoted to reviews and news about the many high-quality films often overlooked by the Hollywood blockbuster-promoting machinery. has added a new resource for professionals working with cinema therapy. The Professional Directory is now available for any therapist, educator or other professional who uses the healing and transformational power of film in their work. Anyone wishing to have their information posted to the site may fill out the online form.

I've also added new film reviews to the site. Colleague Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D. kindly submitted two previously published pieces, Drop Dead Fred (1991) and The Quiet Room (1996).

starTraining Activities:
Our friends at FilmTX should be pleased to read this note from a therapist who took one of their courses. It was posted on the East Bay Chapter of CAMFT online discussion group:

I recently attended the Domestic Violence Seminar put on by FilmTx: "Spousal Abuse: Assessment, Detection & Intervention." It was both powerfully effective and informative. I came away with a useful manual of resource information to refer to and a much clearer eye and sensitivity to the dynamics and solid intervention. I don't really see how it could have been improved. Gil Mansergh was an excellent and thoughtful presenter. I couldn't recommend it more highly. Of course it was disturbing, as it should be. I also have a better sense of how to use movies with clients, something I was already doing at times. It was simply a brilliant way to present the material. (

Be well, Dana

Dana Locke LMFT
Oakland, Ca. 94618

starSuccess Stories:
As a way of encouraging all of us in our personal or professional use of cinema therapy, I am renewing this column, begun in July, featuring CT success stories. If you have a similar success story or other articles that focus on the therapeutic dynamics of individual films, especially the recently released ones, please send it to me. Here's the story of one of my clients.

Gaining a New Perspective With
Under the Tuscan Sun

Several times during my therapeutic work with a client, “Jennifer,” I suggested certain movies to her. Watching these films served her as inspiration and as a catalyst to bring awareness to previously unrecognized dimensions of her psyche. She loved the results and started watching many motion pictures “with different eyes.” She watched them, wondering how the character development or the story might apply to her and her life. I was amazed when my client told me that she even began to choose movies in a new way. Sometimes Jennifer picked a film because she felt intuitively that it might inspire her to find a solution to a problem she was struggling with. After reading some reviews she felt drawn to the newly released Under the Tuscan Sun.

Preceding this, for quite a while Jennifer had been struggling with the question of whether to stay in her marriage. She and her husband tied the knot shortly after high school. Now, 12 years later, she was not the same person any more. After one year of couples’ therapy with another therapist they still fought very frequently and rarely ever had sex. Jennifer also became increasingly aware of a strong desire to have children. She felt nervous that her biological clock was ticking. Her husband was adamantly against having kids. When they first got married she had not considered this a problem. Now my client felt trapped. Although Jennifer deeply wished to be with a partner who shared her desire for a family before it was too late, she could not imagine starting over again on her own after having spent more than a third of her young life married. She understood that her fear of an uncertain future might cause her to stay with her husband for the wrong reasons.

Following her intuition, one night Jennifer decided to watch Under the Tuscan Sun. Although it received mixed reviews from critics, with some calling it typical Hollywood escapism, it also won praise for its fairy tale storyline, gorgeous scenery and sincere characters. And because the story shows a courageous woman rebuilding her life after a devastating emotional loss, Jennifer found it to have positive therapeutic effects. I believe it can have a similar effect on many viewers who don’t yet see a “light at the end of the tunnel” in their life situation. The engrossing portrayal of the main character’s emotional roller coaster and the rich use of symbolic images in the film contribute to this effect.

Diane Lane plays Frances Mayes, a San Francisco author and book critic who suffers intense emotional pain in the process of divorcing her husband. First he cheated on her. Then he played the legal system to get a big chunk of Frances’ money. Lane’s very convincing facial expressions and body language of despair pull the viewer right into Frances’ internal emotional experience: we feel her hesitant anticipation when her newly pregnant lesbian best friend gives Frances a 10-day trip on a gay tour through Tuscany, we sense her joy and confusion around spontaneously buying a 300-year-old house there, her fear and dread during a big thunderstorm and the many other challenges she confronts while remodeling her villa. Rebuilding the mansion corresponds symbolically with the process of reassembling the fragmented pieces of Frances’ soul.

As her inner healing progresses and Frances falls in love with an Italian man, she starts expressing a heart warming and extremely uplifting exuberance. Coming home after having sex for the first time in a long while, she bounces up and down, pumps her fists in the air and shouts, ”Yes! Yes! I still got it! I got it! I got it!”

The messages this story conveys are hopeful. Just as with the 1989 Field of Dreams, Under the Tuscan Sun says: “Don’t give up,” “If you build it they will come,” “Relax and let go, when you cannot control an aspect of your life. Things will fall into place on their own.” During the last two scenes of the film Francis receives a surprising reward for having learned these lessons. Her life becomes complete again.

Jennifer understood these messages intuitively when she saw the movie. Our subsequent explorations in session helped her integrate her newfound wisdom on a more conscious level. Hope began to grow. She gained a new perspective of faith in the future, even if that future involves starting over. Jennifer believed now that there can be a new beginning after a phase of grief. She felt more inner strength and freedom, less constricted by fear. This process helped her enter the next stage in therapy where she now started evaluating whether she wants to stay in her marriage from this fearless new perspective. In our most recent session she decided to suggest to her husband a temporary separation in order to find more clarity about what is best for both of them.

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

-Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT.,
Canyon, CA, USA

-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
Moab, UT, USA