Segments in this Video

Documenting Bipolar Disorder (02:20)


Sam reflects on the skepticism surrounding the film documentary of his battle with Bipolar Disorder. In June 2000, Ben Selkow determines to make a film about street basketball; here he meets Sam. (Graphic language)

June, 2000 (02:17)

Sam shoots interviews to obtain a job as a sport's commentator. He begins bringing his camera to the courts and gives Ben Selkow his reels. Together they get to know people and spend time in The Cage. (Graphic language).

July, 2000 (03:04)

Sam begins calling Ben Selkow many times a day at all hours. He insists that the documentary be about him. Sam sends out hundreds of emails with false information about Selkow and the guys at The Cage; the street basketball film is over.

August, 2000 (02:06)

Sam is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Ben Selkow loses contact with him. Dr. Jamison explains Bipolar illness. About 4% of the population suffers from Bipolar and it is equally distributed among sex and race.

September-October, 2000 (02:59)

Ben Selkow meets up with Sam after his diagnosis. Sam struggles with perspective and reflects on people calling him crazy. He recalls what it was like being focused on the presidential election during a manic state. (Graphic language)

November, 2000 (02:31)

Sam moves back to California; he feels the walls are closing in. He tells Ben Selkow that wants to keep an open mind. Selkow decides to make a film about Sam.(Graphic language)

A Family History of Manic Depression (03:15)

Sam's mother Sharon, recalls his first experience with mania. New York became too stressful for him and his hospitalization was very difficult. Sharon experiences an old fear about Sam's state of mind.

New York City (03:27)

On June 12, 2002, at 6 AM, Sam feels calm and grounded. Ben Selkow films Sam at The Cage, he is worried Sam will have another breakdown. At 1:41 PM, Sam says the most unsettling thing about Bipolar Disorder is that it is always there.

Sam's Episode in New York (05:05)

On June 12, 2002, at 3:20 PM, Sam goes to the Museum of Natural History. Ben Selkow does not notice what he is witnessing. An hour later, Sam takes Selkow to Central Park to re-enact a manic episode; it is not a recreation, it is happening.

Manic Episode on a Plane Leads to a 5150 (02:33)

Ben Selkow decides to stop filming to calm Sam down. Sam admits to weaning himself off of his medication. Selkow tries to take Sam back to Oakland but they are stopped in Los Angeles and Sam is taken into custody.

Understanding Erratic Behavior (01:16)

Psychotic disorders frighten people; mania is an outward engagement with the world that is often chaotic and destructive.

Los Angeles (05:36)

Sam struggles with decisions and calls Ben Selkow for support. Selkow meets Sam again in December, 2002. Sam misses being manic but understands the need for his medication. He has gained weight and is unhappy.

Mania Versus Depression (03:41)

(Graphic language) Sam reflects on his life and struggles with coping with depression. His mother sees encouraging signs that he is handling it. His greatest fear is that he will give up.

August, 2003 (03:01)

Ben Selkow takes Sam on a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Sam feels good right now but tries to maintain a moderate level of excitement.

April, 2004 (02:59)

Sam trusts Ben Selkow and feels like he owes him. Sam struggles to get a job and money. Selkow reflects on Sam's efforts to cope with manic depression. (Graphic language)

Manic Depression and Suicide (04:41)

Sam admits to getting drunk and swallowing dozens of sleeping pills. Ben Selkow returns to New York to attend his cousin's funeral; he cousin committed suicide. Suicide is a death like no other kind and leaves a huge wake.

Sam's Disappointment (04:40)

After a year, Ben Selkow returns to Los Angeles; Sam believes he is getting his life back. Sam takes two tests to become a teacher; he does not pass. (Graphic language)

Co-Existing with Bipolar (03:42)

Sam tries to focus on what he wants. He appreciates Ben Selkow's presence in his life. Sam defines his bipolar as both of them existing in the same room and neither one is ever going to be able to leave the room. (Graphic language)

Sam Relapses (03:02)

The Oakland Teaching Fellowship allows Sam to retake the test. Sam passes the test and begins teaching in 2005; he resigns after the first day. Sam slips into another depression. He returns to New York; family and friends are nervous. (Graphic language)

June, 2006 (04:05)

Sam is anxious about trip to New York and Ben Selkow's film. Selkow wants the ride in to be the last shot but looks at the tapes that Sam recorded over the last summer; he sees what is raging inside Sam. (Graphic language)

Sam's Psychotic Rage (06:31)

Sam goes on a telephone rampage and Selkow tries to back away. (Graphic language)

End of Ben's Film (04:02)

Sam checks himself into an Emergency Room and gets transferred to a psych ward downtown. Ben Selkow films Sharon at the hospital. He worries about Sam's reaction to the film. Selkow reflects on a discussion he had with Sam about the future.

Credits: A Summer in the Cage: An Inside Look at Bipolar Disorder (03:36)

Credits: A Summer in the Cage: An Inside Look at Bipolar Disorder

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A Summer in the Cage: An Inside Look at Bipolar Disorder

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This unique collaboration between a filmmaker and the subject of his work captures a personal battle with bipolar disorder while addressing the filmmaker’s role in documenting mental illness. At his friend Sam’s request, Ben Selkow turned the lens on Sam when Sam’s disturbing behavior led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Sam speaks candidly about living with the disease and describes its phases as he experiences them on camera. As Sam’s story unfolds, Selkow is forced to consider the ethical responsibilities of a documentary filmmaker witnessing his subject’s distress. The program includes illuminating commentary from Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Contains harsh language. (81 minutes)

Length: 81 minutes

Item#: BVL47493

ISBN: 978-1-62102-415-6

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“An exceptional and deeply humanizing look at bipolar disorder.”—Rolling Stone

“One of the most powerful documentaries that I have seen…. Captures the roller coaster of ordinary life that a person with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder experiences.”—Pete Earley, author of CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness

“This beautifully shot, six-year odyssey is profound and sincere… a haunting and riveting personal tale of a descent into mental illness.”—Sam Mettler, creator and executive producer of A&E's Intervention

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