The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #19
Aug. 13, 2005
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New book announcement: The new book by Gary Solomon through Coyote Press' Cinemaparenting, uses movies to teach children and aid parents with important lessons. This book contains 110 movies to draw from. Here is an interview with the author.

E-Motion Picture Magic has sold out three times now on Bookspan/Behavioral Science Book Club. One of the readers wrote this e-mail:

"…I have gained insights through film watching am applying your principles. They resonate well with me and have already helped me understand a few things that I can apply to my life. Books, movies, people, have always come to me in my life when I needed them to help me understand something. Your book came at a moment when I was searching for some answers. I am still searching (and probably will always be) but feel stronger now…"

For mental health practitioners:

Cinema Alchemy – Using the Power of Movies for the Therapeutic Process. This is a continuing education workshop at John F. Kennedy University.

COURSE DESCRIPTION : The practice of using movies as tools in therapy, in conjunction with established therapeutic methods, is becoming more popular. Used thoughtfully and creatively, the emotional and cognitive impacts of films can become a powerful ally in our work. Participants will learn: how a film experience can be utilized therapeutically with individuals, couples, families and groups; Cinema Alchemy techniques; what guidelines to give to clients; what limitations to be aware of. This presentation will include movie clips, case material, demonstrations, and participatory exercises.

DATE & TIME: Sat. Aug. 27, 2005, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
LOCATION: at John F. Kennedy University,100 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill, CA
FEE: $145 -- 7 CEU can be earned.
CONTACT: Office of Continuing Education at John F. Kennedy University at (800) 557-1384, (925)969-3150, or on-line:

Five-day Cinema Alchemy Workshop at Hollyhock for everybody:

Cinema Alchemy – Using the Power of Movies for Healing and Transformation

DATE & TIME: Sept. 16-21, 2005
LOCATION: Hollyhock, Manson's Landing Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada
FEE: $396 US, $475 CDN (meals and accommodation extra), 5 nights
CONTACT: (800) 933-6339 or (250) 935-6576 (outside North America) Fax: (250) 935-6424; PO Box 127 Manson's Landing, Cortes Island B.C. Canada; Email: Web site: For more details see

Coming in September:

Singles Cinema Salon - Entertaining Your Spirit on the boat The Creative Spirit

Cinema Therapists Birgit Wolz and Shoshanna April are planning special evenings of films and shorts that uplift and inspire. After viewing the films there will be experiential exercises and discussion from the heart and soul that will provoke participants to share from their core self, which connects them with their authenticity and allows singles to really get to know each other with ease and grace.

This workshop provides a safe and open venue that cuts through singles' often-meaningless chitchat and exposes their true nature, which is real and refreshing.

The films and movie clips are carefully chosen from the film collection of the Spiritual Cinema Circle. Inspirational commercial movies or segments of these films may be chosen too. Participants will be introduced to the process of watching movies with conscious awareness before they watch.

After viewing an inspirational film, participants will be guided through an experiential process that supports their essential and spiritual nature. Films and exercises will have relevant themes like:

PLACE: on the boat The Creative Spirit docked in Sausalito, California.
DATE AND TIME: to be announced on
FOR RESERVATION AND MORE INFO: call Shoshanna at 510-502-4164.

Cinema Therapy at the university:

For the first time to my knowledge, Cinema Therapy was taught as an elective class at the university level. In July I taught a one unit class: Cinema Alchemy – Using the Power of Movies for the Therapeutic Process at the department of Holistic Studies of John F. Kennedy University in Campbell, California. The class was very well received by the Counseling Psychology graduate students. They repeatedly commented that it "makes so much sense to use the movie in the therapeutic process." The chair of the department of Holistic Studies was so pleased with the students' responses that she immediately invited me back to teach the class again.

Entertain Your Spirit — Spiritual Cinema Circle
Sun., Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, 7-9 p.m.

Films have a powerful effect on us because they clarify values, dramatize solutions, integrate logic, emotions and intuition, introduce options for solving problems and are life affirming. The two short films chosen for the August Spiritual Cinema Circle are Reflections and Ryan's Well. These tales can teach, lighten the heart, provide psychic shelter, heal wounds, illuminate our innocence, encourage compassion and create a sense of wonder.

This month Integrative Spirituality and Spiritual Cinema Circle will feature two films that uplift and inspire - and that you won't find in theater's. After viewing films a discussion from the heart and soul of participants is encouraged. Please join us for a special evening. There is no admission charge. Free will donation accepted. Seat reservation is necessary as space is limited to 15-20.

For reservations call Shoshanna April 510-502-4164 or e-mail her at The yacht Creative Spirit docked in Sausalito is where this Spiritual Cinema Circle will take place.
Directions to the Yacht provided when your reservation is confirmed.
Discussions led by Coordinator of the Spiritual Cinema Circle Shoshanna April, MSW, LCSW, CHT, BCD, a psychotherapist, life coach, in private practice in the East Bay.


Women Cinema Circle - Relevant Reflections
By Shoshanna April

The five young women in the support circle sat tearful around the popcorn, and slowly dipped their delicate fingers into the  bowl of fluffy white kernels.  As their circle leader  I viewed this scene as a metaphor for how they would now dip into themselves, their own vessel, to reach for the kernels of wisdom, harvested from the  film Savior that had just ended. They took up their pens and slowly  wrote down what impacted them about the film. I had instructed them not to speak aloud  after the film ended, but to  be alone with their  own feelings and thoughts so that they could integrate for themselves what they had  just  experienced.

The short 28 minute film Savior, that I had chosen for this final circle night, was a relevant reflection of the group's individual and collective journey. The main character  is Kaja, a  latchkey pre-teen in Iceland, who began acting out with drinking and boys and was sent to a summer camp instead of her grandmother's for her summer break. It is implicated that her grandmother is someone who rescues her. She is older than all the other campers. She seems awkward, very alone, is shamed on a few occasions and is embarrassed that she can't swim. So she pretends that she is someone she is not, she says she can swim. When we see her nearly drown, we also see how dangerous false representation can be. She is saved by a young lifeguard, who she thinks she can trust, but when alone together, he tries to molest her. Kaja’s parents promised to come see her, but when they do not show up on visiting day, she runs away and goes on a vision quest in the wilderness on the way to  her grandmother's house. She has trials and tribulations but is victorious as she goes through her fears and crosses an icy river, then sleeps in a spooky cave. In the morning she is awoken by a horse (symbolic of awakening to her power) and then hitchhikes to her grandmother's house.

Her grandmother returns Kaja to the camp where her parents are worried and waiting for her. She decides to remain at camp even though her parents are willing to have her return home. Kaja admits to her parents that she had learned a very important lesson. That she can care and depend on herself now.

Kaja’s personal conflicts and  her change of how she viewed herself was  at the  very essence of our support circle. As the women  shared their answers to the questions I had provided after viewing the film, it became evident how each brought herstory into their impressions and descriptions of what Kaja needed from her parents, what she learned from being alone in the wilderness, what problems Kaja had that was similar to their own, and how  it felt to be  triumphant when becoming self reliant and self assured.

This Cinema Therapy time was special because the film and the circle members were such a relevant reflection of the feelings and experiences  shared. It was healing for the spirit that each member got to witness the other, in the same way we witnessed the film. A painful part of Kaja’s life was that she is not witnessed by her parents or fellow campers . It is a need in us all to be witnessed. I remember my children climbing in the playground screaming, “Look at me mommy. Watch me swing, climb, slide." It was as if my seeing them do their dare devil antics somehow validated their truth and existence. They felt proud and full of themselves having me see them.  Being witnessed in this group was powerful and important.

This Cinema therapy time was special because it was evident that the women like the film, were a work of art. It was as if each circle member was given a box of crayons and a blank piece of paper and each used the same colors but drew a unique picture from what they had seen and shared in their verbal expression. Each one’s unique perspective was colored by their configuration of personal thoughts, emotions and how the impact of seeing Kaja’s story, her struggles, her ways of coping, her choices of diversion, her need for attention had reflected uniquely their own. This Cinema Therapy time was special as we all had  so much fun in celebration; for like Kaja, each of the women had become their own personal savior; and that my friend, is cause for celebration.

Shoshanna April, LCSW, CHT, BCD
Richmond, California
Phone: (510) 502-4164

Shoshanna has over 25 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist, consultant, life coach, and hypnotherapist. She is in private practice in El Cerrito / Richmond where she works with individual adults, couples  and families. She is the Coordinator of the Bay Area Spiritual Cinema Circle, leads a women's circle and a cinema therapy group.


Therapeutic Movie Review
By Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT

The Upside of Anger

Director: Mike Binder
Producer: Jack Binder, Alex Gartner, Sammy Lee, Mike Binder, Mark Damon
Screenwriter: Mike Binder
Stars: Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Mike Binder, Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2005


Director-writer Mike Binder, himself a child of divorce, tells the story of a sharp-witted suburban wife Terry, who awakens one morning to find that her husband of more than twenty years has unexpectedly walked out of the marriage. All signs point to his having fled the country to begin a new life in Sweden with his secretary, and never to return. She plunges into a burning anger against him for this betrayal and begins each day by trying to bury her rage in booze.

Terry's husband left her to care for four headstrong daughters by herself. Their problems complicate her life even further. College-aged Hadley and her mother haven't gotten along for years, and things only get worse when Hadley introduces boyfriend Dave to the family. High school senior Andy doesn't want to go to college and is dating a man much too old for her. Emily refuses to eat. She wants to be a ballet dancer, which her mother doesn't approve of. Young Popeye is learning about love from a boy who can't reciprocate her feelings. The girls dress expensively, prepare the family meals, and run the household, while their mother slips into a world of bitterness. Terry makes no bones about her excessive drinking, even challenging her daughters to make an issue of her drowning her sorrows.

Daughter Popeye, the narrator of the film, states that all the sweetness of her mother's life in the past has vanished and been replaced by rage against their father. This teenager's way of dealing with the tension in the household is to create a video dealing with the destruction in the world brought on by anger and violence.

Soon their neighbor and Terry's husband's friend, Denny, a "retired", once-great star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers turned radio disk jockey, becomes fascinated with Terry and her daughters. Denny's arrival on the scene is awkward, at first, but a genuine liking takes hold between him and Terry and an odd sort of mating ritual begins. When she offers him a quickie, as part of a campaign to get even with her departed husband, Denny hides in his yard. They appear like two imperfect, alcoholic, resentful ordinary people in the suburbs, with enough money to support themselves in the discontent to which they have become accustomed.

The domestic chaos leaves Terry's daughters out on a limb. They want their old mother back, but are forced to juggle their mom's emotional outbursts and romantic dilemmas as well as their own.

Although Denny starts out as a drinking buddy for Terry, he slowly evolves into her romantic partner, a source of strength, and eventually into an ad-hoc father to her daughters. The film plays out the relationships among all of them.

Eventually an unexpected twist creates a sense of resolution and calmness for the family.

Cinema Alchemy

After viewing The Upside of Anger, a member of my weekly Cinema Alchemy group, Evelyn, told the group that she hated the character Terry because she saw her as selfish, rude, heartless, and abusing her authority as a parent. Evelyn's uncharacteristically strong negative reaction made me wonder whether this character might be forcing her to confront disowned parts of herself.

I asked her how aggression was handled in her family of origin. Evelyn remembered that no one ever yelled. Everyone was nice to everyone else. When she tried to express disagreement, her mom told her, "Do not say anything if you cannot say something nice."

Evelyn also told us that usually, when her husband starts a fight, she does not express anger or frustration. She hates conflict and believes that she would lose an argument anyway. Once in a while, however, when her husband goes too far, much to Evelyn's surprise and embarrassment, intense rage suddenly breaks out of her and she has to have a drink.

Evelyn also told us that she has very good relationships with her colleagues and bosses at work. She is not completely happy at work though, because several times she has been passed by for promotion. This puzzles her because she always completes her tasks diligently. Pushier colleagues, who have also taken more initiative in certain projects, have been promoted instead of her. Evelyn also remembered that she sometimes has a secret desire to demonstrate stronger boundaries with people who take advantage of her at work. This desire makes her feel selfish—she is ashamed of it.

Evelyn has been aware of her fear of conflict all along. Reflecting on her family history, she started to consider that she might have repressed her aggressive impulses as well as her selfish needs. She also surmised that assertiveness, strength, determination, and creativity might have ended up in her "shadow bag" too.

Soon Evelyn started to become more aware of angry emotions, feeling them fully, without acting them out, and just sitting with them. Consequently her anger transformed itself. Evelyn became more assertive, first in our group and consequently at home and at work. Her embarrassing outbursts, followed by drinking, stopped.

Theoretical contemplations:

In psychoanalytic theory, projection is seen as a defense mechanism in which various forbidden thoughts and impulses are attributed to another person rather than the self, thus warding off anxiety. Getting to know these disowned parts prevents clients from acting out in an involuntary and undesired way. Becoming conscious and accepting these "shadow" qualities can also help clients become more authentic human beings and access their hidden potential. The Evocative Way of Cinema Alchemy teaches that we need to consider that we might project our own not yet fully conscious inner qualities onto movie characters when we have a strong negative reaction to them or their behavior. Becoming consciously aware of these reactions can help us start accessing parts of our psyche that we weren't aware of before.

Stages of working with projection of disowned parts:

1. Watching a character outside ourselves in a movie.
2. Beginning to dislike a character, their behavior, or certain attributes that we do not recognize in ourselves.
3. Examining whether a character, their behavior, or attributes might be part of our not-yet-fully-recognized disowned and repressed "shadow" self.
4. Exploring ways to become more whole, by embracing the projected positive qualities in order to realize our full potential, as well as acknowledging our repressed "shadow" self to move toward emotional healing and inner freedom.


First rule out that the client didn't have a strong negative reaction to a character because she, or somebody she cares about, has been emotionally hurt or disappointed by someone of whom the movie character reminds her of.

Possible questions after the movie:

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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


-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
editor & webmaster
Moab, UT, USA