Voices from Within

Feature-length film. A participatory film made with five residents of Saint Elizabeths psychiatric hospital. Co-produced with Video Diary Productions.

The Story: Voices From Within explores the complicated process of recovery through the eyes of four individuals in care at Saint Elizabeths mental hospital. Through the intimacy of video diaries, Lew, Calvin, Jimmy, and Kevin share what it’s like to have spent a collective 160 years under constant surveillance, where their every action is deemed a symptom of a diagnosis, and their freedom of movement is in constant negotiation by a complicated system of restrictions and privileges. By putting the cameras directly into their hands, we witness their transformation from examined to examiner. The film takes us through their daily routines, and their ongoing struggle to leave the hospital and transition back into the community. One in four adults—approximately 57.7 million Americans— experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. And yet mental illness remains taboo and a stigma. Voices From Within provides individuals with mental illness the ability to tell their own stories of recovery; to support their healing process through building confidence and encouraging introspection; and to provide a platform for these individuals to use personal storytelling to connect to the wider DC community. Through an in depth community engagement strategy, Voices From Within aims to humanize an often misrepresented population, sparking dialogue about mental illness and encouraging a deeper understanding of the complexities of recovery.

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The Team:

  • Produced by Video Diary Productions a co-production with Meridian Hill Pictures
  • Directors: Ellie Walton & Joy Haynes
  • Executive Producers: Ellie Walton & Joy Haynes
  • Producers: Brandon Kramer & Lance Kramer
  • Participants: Calvin Neal, James Snyder, Kevin McCain, Lewis Ecker


"Documentary portrays criminally insane -- through their own eyes"
CNN, July 4, 2011

"Video diaries reveal life for those committed to St. Elizabeths"
Washington Post, January 28, 2011

"Q and A with Joy Haynes: Producer and Actress"
Washington Examiner, September 13, 2010

"Drawing out the voices from within St. Elizabeths Hospital"
TBD.com, September 7, 2010

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