An interview with director Jerri Sher on her upcoming movie about brain injury.
Posted Sep 22, 2020 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
By way of background: Last November, I had the opportunity to preview a new documentary film that will soon be released (in early November of this year) that deals with the silent killer of traumatic brain injury and the hope for healing and recovery. Almost a year ago now, I was able to talk with Jerri Sher, the director, writer, and producer of Quiet Explosions, and last night I was able to do a follow-up interview with the two-time, Emmy award-winning documentarian.
The movie is based on a book by Adam and Andrew Marr, Tales from the Blast Factory, which chronicles Andrew’s journey to recovery from blast wave trauma to his brain while serving as a Special Forces Green Beret explosive expert on military deployments. I met Andrew after I wrote a Psychology Today blog over two years ago that asked the question, “Is it PTSD or TBI?” Andrew reached out to me and we became friends. He generously introduced me to his circle of pioneers working in brain injury recovery.
Andrew and his brother Adam are now both retired from the military and founded the Warrior Angels Foundation which is dedicated to TBI treatment, education, and research. Andrew recovered from the effects of debilitating brain injuries by receiving the innovative treatment protocol of Dr. Mark L. Gordon who practices neuroendocrinology.
I asked Ms. Sher why she made the movie Quiet Explosions. She took me down the road of how she first learned of Andrew Marr’s book from the editor of Tales from the Blast Factory. She was taken by the story of both Andrew’s road to recovery and by Dr. Gordon, the dedicated and innovative physician who helped restore his life.
Ms. Sher indicated she has always been interested in healing and health, and as a documentary filmmaker, she only likes to work on movies that can have a positive impact on society. She has worked on about twenty-two documentary film projects over her career, including a twelve-part series on alternative healing bought by the Discovery Channel, and the inspiring film Step-Up, featuring the life of Leroy Simkins which dealt with raising awareness on issues of mental health and chronic homelessness, for which she won two Emmy Awards in the categories of Best Director and Best Producer.
I asked Ms. Sher what she learned from making Quiet Explosions. She discovered that some doctors truly care deeply about the individuals they are treating and dedicate themselves to making the person whole again. She was inspired to meet open-minded doctors who are dedicated to making the world a better place and are willing to think outside the box. She also learned that if you have a brain injury, you have to be willing to try different things, take some leaps of faith, and most importantly, you have to have hope.
Ms. Sher still has a number of burning questions about TBI and PTSD. Why are TBIs still pushed under the rug by our society? Why don’t more doctors know about the effective methods that helped Andrew and other people featured in the film recover? Why don’t more doctors consider the whole person and keep open minds?
I ended my interview by asking Ms. Sher what she would like people to know about the Quiet Explosions film, which she hopes will be released to the public on Veterans Day. She would like people to know they can find hope and healing for their brain injuries and PTSD or for people they love who are struggling with these conditions. She said, “There is so much hope and they can get better, which the film strives to capture.”
Ms. Sher and I also talked about another common cause of brain injuries—car accidents, which are the subject of my forthcoming book. Regardless of the cause of a brain injury, of which PTSD symptoms may be a manifestation of the same, there is indeed hope.
Many things can be done to facilitate recovery. Ms. Sher learned that no one treatment is correct for everyone. You have to try different approaches until you find the one (or ones) that work best for you, and this is what she hopes people will better understand by watching Quiet Explosions. She also hopes that people dealing with depression and other mental health challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic will gain a new understanding in order to regain quality of life—"a life worth living,” as Andrew Marr refers to his current life in the movie.
The movie will be released in early November and you can follow www.quietexplosions.com for updates.
Adam Marr and Andrew Marr with Mark L. Gordon, M.D. (2018). Tales from the Blast Factory: A Brain Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back from the Brink. New York: Morgan James.
James F. Zender, Ph.D. (2020). Recovering from Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.