Review/Interview: TOUCHED WITH FIRE

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B-

[SXSW Review and New interview]

Paul Dalio’s drama Touched with Fire Arrives in Theaters Nationwide

People can connect in different ways and in different places, and each situation certainly has its own individual circumstances and story. These connections can lead to a romance between the individuals, even though some that may be considered highly unlikely or impossible to succeed. In writer-director Paul Dalio’s script for Touched with Fire, formerly titled Mania Days when I viewed it as it made its World Premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight), the filmmaker creates characters with a strong romantic bond. They are two very creative manic depressives, Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby). Although they have some artistic success, she as a first time published poet and he at poetry slams, neither one takes their prescribed Rx and land in the same psychiatric hospital. Their love continues, but not without the concern of Marco’s father (Griffin Dunne) and Carla’s parents (Christine Lahti, Bruce Altman), and more so after a child is on the way. The story is great as the characters navigate their way through their romance and mental health issues, and the performances are very engaging. The film now has a theatrical release and opens February 19th.

When about to embark on a writing project, I have often heard the piece of advice “write what you know about” and in the case of Dalio, he wrote from his personal perspective of having bipolar disorder and the experience after reading Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. He attended NYU film school, and was mentored and encouraged to write the story by film professor Spike Lee, and subsequently became Executive Producer for the student’s first feature film. Katie Holmes serves as co-producers and Dalio’s wife, Kristina Nikolova, is the film’s cinematographer.

With the film’s wider theatrical release in Austin and other cities, I had the opportunity to interview Dalio while he was in Dallas with the USA Film Festival where the feature screened this week. Dalio stated his film had participated in multiple film festivals and around the country for mental health organizations over the eleven months. He said “everyone”, citing among them the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), and “all kinds” of organizations helped screen his film around the country. The distributor, Roadside Attractions, made the decision to change the title in order to translate well and not have “mania” considered in a different manner.

As this is a debut feature film for him, we discussed his thoughts on achieving his goal with the film. “What is beautiful about it is that the people saw the beauty of it. Some said they were a bit jealous (of the relationship). Every person who said they were bipolar said, “It was just like this.” He added that doctors said they were excited about the film as a way to reach patients. “The film is for a broader public. People don’t talk about it.”

Check your local listings for show times at the Regal Arbor Cinema in Austin.

Source: Roadside Attractions

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