After watching the film ‘Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter’ (HBO, July, 1993), the Academy Award nominated feature documentary I was inspired to make my own film about my experiences living and coping with CFIDS and MCS. Three years later, Funny You Don’t Look Sick, An Autobiography of an Illness premiered at the Museum of Fine Arts and won a Merit Award at the 2005 International Disability Film Festival and distributed nationally by the Cinema Guild. I have been coping with this illness and have been documenting it for over a two decades. In the follow up, Homesick I venture out to the Southwest to find others with MCS.
During the final editing of Funny You Don’t Look Sick, I began to ask myself how many others were going through this nightmare, too? How did they get sick? Were they having as much trouble as I was finding and keeping a safe place to live? How were they coping with such an overwhelming and often isolating condition? Did safer housing improve their health? Was one area of the country safer to live in than another, such as the Southwest where many people with MCS have migrated?
I felt compelled to make a second film in which I explored these questions, exposed the widespread and fast-growing impact of this illness, and examined the critical importance of safe housing as both prevention and treatment for MCS, using my own search for a safe home as the central narrative thread.
Homesick follows my literal journey with MCS, as I go on a road trip to find others coping with this disability and discover if and how they have created safe housing. Through personal portraits, the film reveals the human face of this devastating condition, helping to raise awareness, increase compassion and challenge the misinformation and stigma that surrounds it.
I go on the road to find people around the country who are coping with MCS. I travel to New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Texas, where many people with MCS have migrated in search of less industrialized environments. I visit their homes and witness their daily struggles. I meet architects, teachers, housewives, social workers, lawyers, nurses, doctors, artists and students. The similarity of each person’s story is staggering. Their homes include tents, a house on stilts, a straw bale house and a teepee. I have also revisited these people nine years after the original filming to find out how they are managing now. My findings are disturbing, inspiring and I hope, useful.