Don’t Touch Me I’m A Real Live Wire
The Filmmaker as Insomniac

Myke Dyer

It’s 3 in the morning as I write these notes. I can’t sleep, again. I pace back and forth, listen to the deafening silences of my house. I get up, check on on everyone else in my home sleeping restfully, look outside, check the time, have a snack, I crawl back in to bed, careful not to disturb my partner and wait for sleep to gently pour over my body.
Of course it doesn’t happen and I get back up, go past the sleeping dog to the computer. While I obsess about my inability to sleep, the extra time is also a blessing for my creative life. This year the documentary programme explores insomnia, specifically the portrait of an artist as insomniac.
Insomnia remains an enigma. More than a third of the world suffers from it, and billions are spent each year on prescription drugs to cure it. Nevertheless, it appears that the real difficulty with this elusive condition is that nobody knows quite what to do about it.

Set in the lurid, perpetual neon burn of the nighttime city, with its 24-hour stores and restaurants, Into the Night explores sleeplessness and its discontents. Filmmaker Annette Mangaard, herself a lifelong insomniac, has crafted a searching, lyrical, revelatory film, a sleep-noir journey, tracing one night of her own endless exhaustion - and everybody else’s.

Desperate for some rest, Mangaard submits herself to a sleep clinic. She talks with wonderfully lucid, hollow-eyed fellow travelers about their varying worlds of sleep deprivation. She muses on sleeplessness in history, sometimes employing witty passages of animation to assist in her speculations (Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill were all famous insomniacs), and searches through the past for keys to sleeplessness in the present.

An unforgettable guide to the nether world of shadows and exhaustion, Into the Night is a cinematic sojourn into the realm of the insomniac - the tracking of a vivid mind moving through the artificial day of night, searching for rest.

A film that balances the precision of a Swiss watch with the messiness of a restless mind, Wide Awake is filmmaker Alan Berliner’s uniquely personal tour through his life-long obsession with insomnia. Berliner once again uses his own life as a laboratory - to confront the anguish of his sleeplessness.
Berliner uses both metaphor and candid first-person observations to illuminate how an obsessive mind that won’t shut down at night leaves him feeling ‘jet lagged in his own time zone.’ Incorporating hundreds of archival film clips, consultations with sleep specialists, an overnight stay at a sleep lab, conversations with family members, home movies and dream visualizations - all woven together by a strikingly dynamic sound design - Wide Awake is a cinematically innovative film that pushes at the borders of documentary storytelling.

In many ways Wide Awake is also a film about filmmaking. We see footage documenting the process of making Wide Awake, including shots of Berliner recording narration, talking with his film crew, working at his desk and editing at his computer. There’s even a raucously caffeinated tour of his studio, in which we begin to understand a lot more about Berliner’s obsessions and how they serve him as a filmmaker. As the film progresses, Berliner reveals more and more about his secret life as a ‘night owl,’ and we learn how he has turned the very obsessive energy that keeps him up at night into a source of fuel and inspiration for his creative work.

Both films are about obsession. About seeing in the dark. About the emotional tugs of love and family. About creativity itself. Portrait of an artist as insomniac.


August 9, 8:00pm, Durham Town Hall
Into the Night
Annette Mangaard, Canada
78 minutes, colour (2005)

Annette Mangaard will be present at the screening. An indepenedent fillmmaker since 1984, Mangaard has writer and director credits on more then 13 films.


August 10, 8:00pm, Above Stedmans
Wide Awake
Alan Berliner, USA
79 minutes, colour (2006)

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