Crooked Beauty

Topics: HEALTH, Social Justice
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Funds Needed for Completion: $ 15,000.0
Estimated Completion Date: 02/01/2009


An artist/writer challenges Western stereotypes of madness by transforming her experiences with psychiatric institutions and mood-altering medications into innovative mental health activism and creative expression.

Crooked Beauty is a social justice documentary that explores positive and compassionate models for transforming the experience of madness in our culture. Artist Ashley M. recounts her journey from the psych ward to innovative mental health activism. Diagnosed as ‘bipolar’ at the age of 19, Ashley survived childhood trauma and substance abuse to co-found The Icarus Project, a mutual aid support network and media project by and for people struggling with dangerous gifts commonly labeled as ‘mental illnesses.’ Fragmented montages of urban and natural landscapes visually evoke the fluctuations of mania and depression as a backdrop to her testimonies. Crooked Beauty redefines the stigmas surrounding mental health by presenting a new healing culture and political model for living with madness as a tool of creativity, inspiration, and hope.

Rather than romanticize or objectify the ‘mad other’ as genius or savant, Crooked Beauty reaches beyond the stereotypes of mental health problems and resonates with the general viewer who understands that one doesn’t need a psychiatric diagnosis to feel crazy in today’s chaotic world. To suffer depression and desperation in a time of war or the aftermath of a natural disaster, to feel extreme sadness and sensitivity in the wake of a divorce or a death is to be human, not ‘mentally ill.’ My intention is to establish a common ground with stories from outside the mainstream, and present new definitions for normalcy in our society.



Project's Financial Needs

Funds will be used for the post-production phase of this project, including: film processing and digitizing, offline editing hardware and software, online picture and sound editing, and dvd authoring/duplication.

Other financial Support


Current stage of production


Estimated Completion Date



Post-production: October 2008 through February 2009

Completion: February 2009

Target Audience

Grass-roots mental health collectives, mental health professionals and social workers, colleges and universities with psychology departments, mental health care clinics and hospitals with treatment programs, symposiums on mental health issues, non-profit media arts centers, podcasts and community-based radio shows, high school and university film/media programs, and the general public through film festivals that focus on themes of mental health, spirituality, and healing.

Production Personnel

Ken Paul Rosenthal Director, Cinematographer, Editor (
Ken Paul Rosenthal recent projects weave personal and political narratives into the poetic lyricism of landscape films. His films have screened at over sixty-five festivals and venues around the world, including the New York City MOMA, Athens International Film and Video Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Images Contre Nature International Festival of Experimental Video (France), Museu do Chiado Museum of Contemporary Art (Portugal), and Rotterdam International Film Festival. He is the recipient of a Kodak Award for Cinematography.

Ashley M. Featured Artist (
Ashley is an artist, writer, and co-founder of The Icarus Project ( A survivor of childhood trauma and substance abuse, Ashley was diagnosed bipolar in 1999, and thrown into a dehumanizing system of labels and pathology that did not provide a framework for becoming whole. Her healing path includes zen practice, alternative and western medicine, gardening, and building community through grassroots activism.

What Your Donation Enables:

1 Crooked Beauty bookmark and sticker
All the above, plus 1 Crooked Beauty DVD upon completion
All the above, plus; 1 copy 'Navigating the Space Between Brilliance & Madness' reader by The Icarus Project
All the above, plus; 1 copy of 'Live Through This: The Art of Self-Destruction' book
All the above, plus; Screen Credit

Donors to this project