The SBIFF film tackling the challenges of anxiety for young people
Wednesday marks the official start of the 11-day Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Documentary Anxious Nation was inspired by the challenges faced by the daughter of the film's co-director and producer Laura Morton.
Morton says she didn't realize how many people were in the same situation as she was, along with her teenage daughter Sevey, until she reached out to others via social media, and found they were not alone. It sparked the idea for a documentary which explores mental health and anxiety affecting teens and families.
"I'm a story-teller by trade, but first and foremost, I'm a mom...and I have an anxious child," said Morton.
Morton featured herself and Sevey in the film, as well as other families, facing mental health challenges.
"We chose to be in the film and to share our story. My conscience wouldn't allow me to ask another family to do what we weren't willing to do ourselves," she added.
She says there were "very vulnerable" moments, and that makes the film relatable to other families.
Director Vanessa Roth – who won an Academy Award in 2008 for best short documentary – says that gaining the trust of the young people featured in the film was critical to telling their stories authentically.
"It's this ethical balance of making sure you're telling a story which true and authentic and being aware of the impact the work will have on their lives, long after you're out of their lives," said Roth.
The point of this film was to give them a voice, she explained.
Roth said that the more vulnerable and truthful the subjects were, the more empowered they become.
"I've never experienced a more difficult time to be a young person", said Kathy Ireland, the film’s executive producer and presenter.
"The messages that young people get aren't healthy and they aren't helpful for them growing up....it's hard, it's really hard," said Ireland.
She says that as well as social media, and a 24-hour news cycle, young people also had to manage the isolation of a pandemic including schools being closed, and wearing facemasks.
Morton says there's no question that we are more anxious in 2023, than before, and the movie seeks to address this.
Anxious Nation is screening at Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 12 at 1.20 p.m. and again on February 14 at 4.20 p.m.