A SUMMER IN THE CAGE is a feature-length documentary produced, written, and directed by filmmaker Ben Selkow. The film chronicles his friend Sam Murchinson’s battle with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder causes drastic changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. This affects the person’s ability to carry out simple day-to-day tasks. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe and are quite different from the normal mood swings that almost everyone experiences from time to time. Bipolar disorder can lead to damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and ultimately suicide. Thankfully, this disorder can be treated with pharmacotherapy, and those who have been diagnosed with it are able to lead full and productive lives.
People who suffer from bipolar disorder periodically experience very intense emotional states that happen in distinct periods. These have been called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a radical shift from the person’s usual mood and behavior. When the person experiences an exceedingly joyful state, it’s called a manic episode. When he or she goes through an extremely sad or hopeless state it’s called a depressive episode. Occasionally a mood episode can be a mixed state that includes symptoms of both mania and depression.
Bipolar disorder often develops in a person’s late teens or early adult years. A little over 50% of all cases begin before the age of 25. Some people may show their first symptoms during childhood, whereas others may develop symptoms much later in life. The incidence of being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder is equal in men and women.
Originally, this film was supposed to be about street basketball. While hanging out at “the cage”, a popular basketball court in downtown New York City, Ben met Sam and began to interview him. They quickly became friends and decided to work together on the project. Sam had access to the cage and the players, so it seemed like the perfect match. But then, Sam began to act in a strange way and the players lost trust in him and Ben.
So, after getting diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, Sam suggested that Ben make the film about him. The film follows Sam for seven years through delusional manic episodes, paralyzing depression, and the constant fight to escape his father’s legacy. Sam shares openly how devastated he was when he learned that he had inherited the very disease that he had feared his whole life. The most painful thing for Sam was making the decision to not have any children of his own. He had always wanted to have children and to father them as he had not been fathered. But his diagnosis made it clear that he could pass on the disease to his own children. He refuses to run that risk.
As you listen to Sam’s story, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the depth of this illness and the pain it causes.