The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #52

November 2013


The DVD, Guerilla Filmmaking with a Hollywood Flair, produced by Linda Flanders, "is not just a movie ... it's a learning experience! Learn how to film your movie, video project or school event using yourself as a tripod and getting professional Hollywood results with a camera, a tablet or even your phone. ... Or, use Guerilla Filmmaking as a learning and teaching tool for children that uses neuroscience research for lasting and healthy behavioral results."

As a cinema therapist, I appreciate the impressive demonstration of using this digital technology to work with atypical children successfully. I learned from this DVD how communal art can become a fun project in the service of humanity.

Amazon Prime members have access to Amazon Instant Video, an Internet video on demand service offered by This service, available in the United States, provides unlimited, commercial-free instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows. You can watch on your computer, on the new Kindle Fire tablet or on an Internet-connected TV, Blu-ray player, or other set-top box. Amazon's biggest competitor in this arena is Netflix. Amazon was not particularly aggressive on that front until this year, making a number of deals that either outbid Netflix or snapped up content its rival was willing to relinquish. An Amazon Prime membership costs $79 per year. You can start with a one-month free trial, or if you're a student or a parent, the Amazon Student and Amazon Mom programs offer other benefits.

starOnline Course and Programs:

Online Course

Birgit Wolz

DSM-5: Diagnoses Seen in Movies: Using Movies to Understand Common DSM Diagnoses
Movies are particularly well suited to depict psychological phenomena. The combination of images, music, dialogue, lighting, camera angles, and sound effects in a film mimic thoughts and feelings that occur in our consciousness. The viewer experiences what a character sees and feels. Since characters in many popular films portray persons who live with mental disorders, these depictions offer a unique learning opportunity.
This course provides up-to-date information about common DSM-5 diagnoses by exploring the most relevant changes in the diagnosis of psychopathology from the DSM IV-TR to the DSM-5. It offers an effective tool to help clinicians use the DSM-5 for effective treatment planning, and for communicating with colleagues as well as with insurance companies.

Cinema Therapy Certification Programs

1. For information about all Cinema Therapy online courses click here.
2. One certification program is designed for mental health professionals - click here.
3. Another, shorter, certification course can be taken by anybody (no prerequisites required) - click here.

- Upon completion of a program, students will receive a ready-to-be-framed certificate of completion for their course of study, "Cinema Therapy."
- These programs can be completed in more than one session over a three-year period.
- Continuing education credits can be earned with either program.

The certificate programs are composed of individual courses, which can also be taken separately.

Continuing education credits are available for all courses for Psychologists (APA), MFTs & LCSWs (CA-BBS), Social Workers (ASWB) and counselors in California and other states. Click here for more information.

starGroups and Workshops:

A Cinema Therapy Group is facilitated by Christina Pettinato and Don Laird in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: "Movies can be a catalyst for GROWTH, CHANGE and HEALING, and we will explore new ways of watching films that will resonate with members long after they leave the group. Through supportive exchange, members will discuss the impact, myth and metaphor, and symbolism of movies. Explore emotional issues including:
? Grief, love, anger, understanding
? Discover different ways of thinking and feeling
? Evoke personal and relational qualities like commitment, courage, authenticity, flexibility, mindfulness and spiritual awareness
? Realize new meaning and satisfaction"

The Adelphi University offers: Julie and Julia – Cinema-Therapy Series: "Enjoy a movie at the Writing Center focused on facing challenges associated with the writing process."

starNew Blogs and Websites:

Life Talkies - Healing the planet one story at a time describes Cinema Therapy in the following way: "A form of therapy or self-help that uses movies, particularly videos, as therapeutic tools. Cinema therapy can be a catalyst for healing and growth for those who are open to learning how movies affect people and to watching certain films with conscious awareness. Cinema therapy allows one to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on the psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change.


Murtaza Bootwala is called The Movie Doctor and Chief Happiness Officer of the Global Healing Project in Pune, India, work, healed himself from debilitating stress and depression: Movies allowed him to identify with various attributes embodied in different characters. He could actually visualize himself possessing those attributes as well, vicariously experiencing them until he could live them. Mirror neurons allowed him to do this. This set of neurons in his brain cannot distinguish if a particular thing is happening in his life or in the movie’s life. It is also the basis of advertising.

starThumbnail Reviews by Karin Leonard & Daniel Robin:

Each month, Karin and Daniel select their favorite or otherwise important films. They rate them, subjectively, on a scale from 1 (worthless) to 5 (awesome) in terms of their entertainment and message. They leave the plot details and storytelling to the filmmakers and instead attempt to characterize, highlight strengths and flaws, and hint at purpose. You can reach them at

Blue Jasmine

With Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay
Entertainment: 3 Message: 4

A stunning, nuanced and sophisticated performance by Cate Blanchett reaches new levels of "blue" and gloomy in this well-paced drama, where it's all about her - a narcissistic, stuck-up socialite, with a life in ruins. We smell an Oscar. Her rehumanizing and vulnerable performance is not to be missed; you may even find yourself empathizing with this hard-to-like character. Far more serious than his trademark comedies, Woody Allen's masterful writing and directing touch is apparent, leaving the actors to find their own way and bringing forward a depth that rings true, sad and hopeful all at once. While clearly a commentary on crooked morals and inequality, message and meaning are delivered deftly, yet with elegance and dark humor (1 hr 38 min).

Lee Daniels' The Butler

With Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack
Entertainment: 4 Message: 4.5

A powerful and sweeping true story of the life of Cecil Gaines who served eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, 1952 to 1986. The story of his life and career become the vivid candid camera, the backdrop through which we witness the long arc of the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affecting this man's life, family, as well as American society. An emotional, moral and gripping journey from unbelievable oppression to degrees of freedom and possibility. Told with dignity, grace, and sensitivity to the complex issues, featured are riveting performances by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey (what a treat to see her back on the big screen) along with a stellar cast. A great film and history lesson to see with family and friends, sure to inspire spirited discussions (2 hrs 12 min).


With Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley
Entertainment: 3.5 Message: 3 Note: futuristic, gritty violence and gore

From the same folks who brought us District 9, a similar stark, gritty tone runs through this highly metaphoric tale about poverty contrasted with privilege. Set in Australia, the year 2154, the class divide has grown wider as Earth's ecology deteriorates. Visually stunning when visiting "Elysium," an elaborate space station where the wealthiest elite live and enjoy their protected existence. Action heavy, violent and depressing when portraying a ruined Earth, where the rest of the population resides. While heavy handed, the message is powerful, as an unlikely hero (Matt Damon) sets out to restore equality to polarized worlds. (1 hr 37 min)

The Spectacular Now

With Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Entertainment: 3.5 Message: 4

While this starts out just like another highschool farce, it's worth hanging in there. Brilliantly cast and written (same writing team as 500 Days of Summer), the story becomes increasingly more engaging as the characters find their truths and strive for authenticity. Performances - especially by Shailene Woodley - are so natural, you forget these are actors. Instead of Hollywood fluff and eye-candy we are treated to the tender and sometimes treacherous territory of teenage insecurities, first loves and the often painful journey of differntiating from family and dysfunction. What is special here is the raw honesty, with some scenes almost minimalist, powerfully efficient and understated, saying it all with facial expressions alone. See with mature teenagers then discuss afterwards? (1 hr 39 min).

We're The Millers

With Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts
Entertainment: 4 Message: 2.5

Often hilarious, raunchy and raucously entertaining, this faux family becomes the vehicle for misadventures in drug smuggling. Not entirely goofy (just mostly), it is the strength of the cast and writing, boldly making light of Mexican drug cartels, that succeeds wildly. No real attempt to moralize or deliver any social or political value (let alone respectable values), it is just for laughs, and works well as such. There have been few good comedies so far in 2013. We hope viewers don't get any wrong ideas or take any of this seriously ... just adult fun ... leave the moral compass at home (1 hr 49 min).

starReview by Birgit Wolz:

Bridge to Terabithia (Trailer)

Director: Gabor Csupo
Producers: Lauren Levine, Hal Liberman, David Paterson
Screenplay: Jeff Stockwell, David Paterson
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 2007


The big-screen adaptation of Katherine Paterson's award-winning 1977 children's book captures its powerful and bittersweet spirit.

In 1976, Katherine Paterson's son, David, who co-wrote the script for this movie, was eight years old when his friend, Lisa Hill, was struck by lightning and killed. His mother drew upon his personal tragedy to create the story of a boy, Jesse Aarons, and a girl, Leslie Burke, fifth graders in rural Virginia, who become the best of friends.

Jesse is the ignored middle child and only son of a reticent father, who struggles to earn a living. Of his four children, dad favors his youngest daughter, May Belle. He works all the time, and reprimands his son frequently. Jesse is an artist, although none of his family members and schoolmates see much value in his aptitude with pencil and paint. Leslie is the new kid in the Jesse's class. She is the only child of two wealthy, successful, self-involved writers who barely notice when she is not there. They have moved to the country, next door to the Aarons. Despite being lively and energetic, Leslie is scorned as readily as Jesse because her parents don't want her to watch TV, and because she is an artist too. Her particular discipline is writing.

Jesse and Leslie are picked on by bullies and need to cope with a tyrannical teacher named Mrs. Meyers. The connection between the two kids is hesitant at first, particularly after Leslie usurps Jesse's title as the fastest runner in their class at Lark Creek Elementary. Jesse is nearly as hostile toward the girl as his classmates. But eventually they are drawn together because they both feel "different", share a love of imagination, and come to respect and support each other's unique talents. As viewers we sense that Jesse and Leslie are special, eager, bright-eyed, and a bit beyond their years in the way smart kids can be.

Soon, the two friends are doing everything together. As a means of escape they spend their days after school out back in a deep patch of woods near their houses, reachable only by a rope swing over a creek. To combat boredom and rise above their depressing surroundings, Leslie creates an imaginary kingdom called Terabithia where they rule as queen and king. This land is filled with magical creatures, a Dark Lord, ferocious monsters, goblins, and mythical beings. There are occasional battles with the forces of evil. The girl shakes up Jesse's little world by showing him that dreaming is OK. In magical Terabithia tree houses become fortresses, trees become giant trolls, and squirrels are vicious man-eaters. From the top of a tree they can see a beautiful waterfall and endless snow-capped fantasy mountains. In this marvelous fantasy kingdom Leslie tells her stories and Jesse is free to draw as much as he likes. When they're in their mythical land, the world behind them fades away, they can relish each other's company, and enjoy the adventures they script along the way.

The complexion of their real world brightens. They take revenge on the mean kids who taunt them at school, and eventually find a way to befriend one of them. Leslie's parents finish writing their book and pay more attention to her. A music teacher, Ms. Edmonds, discovers Jesse's artistic ability and helps him to nurture it. "Don't let those other kids stand in your way," she says to the boy. For the first time, Jesse dares to feel good about himself.

On one day, an ugly reality intrudes upon their idyllic world. Suddenly, Jesse plunges into the most difficult experience of his young life as he is forced to deal with Leslie's tragic death. He isolates and displays hostility because he feels guilty after he learns that his friend drowned in the turbulent creek trying to swing over it while he visited an art museum with Ms. Edmonds. The ten-year-old goes through a painful process of deep grief, loss of innocence, and eventually renewal. His relationships with his dad, with May Belle, and even with Mrs. Meyers are profoundly transformed in this process. After a touching good-bye ritual, Jesse's grieving soul heals, he builds a wooden bridge over the creek, and guides his little sister as a princess into his magical kingdom.

Cinema Alchemy

My eleven-year-old client, Amber, came to therapy about two months after her friend, Jasmine, had died from an injury as a result of a bicycle accident. Because they lived close to each other and played in the same soccer team, they had recently become best friends and hung out together frequently. After Jasmine's death, Amber spent most of her time in her room listening to music. During our first couple of sessions, Amber refused to talk about her grief.

For our third session, I invited Amber's parents to come with her daughter. The parents seemed supportive and concerned. In order to protect Amber, they avoided talking about her loss. I learned that Amber frequently snaps at her eight-year-old sister, Emily, and that she hates school now. Amber had been an excellent student. Recently her grades started slipping. I first provided some grief education. In a language that was accessible to the girl, I explained that grief is a natural response to loss. Although everybody's journey toward acceptance and healing is different, some of the basic elements usually are shock, emotional upheaval, guilt, hostility, depression, and finally hope and the reaffirmation of life. It is important that each individual's pattern is respected, allowing them to move to each phase at their own pace. I also recommended that they watch Bridge to Terabithia together.

During our subsequent individual session, Amber began to talk about Jasmine. First she told me how much fun they had together. When I asked her whether she could relate to Jesse, the girl started crying and saying that she knows exactly how Jesse feels. She also told me that she hates school now because she feels so different from her classmates. She is not cool or fun to be around any more, because she always feels like crying. Amber let me know that Jesse's story helped her understand that she is not crazy -- just grieving like Jesse. The movie also gave her hope that her feelings will change with time.

In subsequent sessions we discussed how Amber could support her healing process. She decided to write notes to Jasmine whenever she felt like she wanted to tell her something. Soon she started feeling better, spent more time with her friends again, and became increasingly more able to focus on her school work.

Theoretical Contemplations

Bridge to Terabithia shows Jesse going through the stages of grief. Watching the movie can support grief therapy with a child or adolescent because it helps normalizing the grief process. By sending a drawing of Leslie on a small wooden raft down the creek where she drowned, he says a final good-bye to his friend. Jesse also symbolically builds a "bridge" to a new phase of his life by building a bridge over the creek to Terabithia. In the last scene of the movie, his renewal is shown, when the boy crosses over this bridge with his sister and is able to see an even more spectacular magical kingdom than ever before.

Guidelines and Questions for Children or Adolescents Who Experience Grief

• Is there any similarity between what Jesse feels after Leslie's death and how you are feeling right now?

• Was he really responsible for Leslie's death? Do you feel guilty for something you are not really responsible for?

• What do you think about the people who helped him cope with his loss? Do you have people in your life who are there for you?

• What can you do that might help you cope with your loss similarly to what Jesse did when he sent his little raft down the creek?


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT
Author of E-MotionPicture Magic
Loch Lomond, CA, USA