In an ongoing series of interviews with Sundance participants, indieWIRE interviews filmmaker Alan Berliner. A past Walker artist-in-residence, Berliner is introducing his new documentary, Wide Awake. Like the film he screened here, The Sweetest Sound (an obsessive history of naming and, specifically, his own name), this new effort is autobiographical. Only this time it’s about sleep:
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
I’ve been a poor sleeper my entire life but wasn’t ready to tackle the problem in a film until now. I’m not sure if it had to do with marrying Shari, with having a child, or the fact that my last film “The Sweetest Sound” (a film about “names”) explored “identity” from the outside (looking in), so to speak — that I felt I needed to explore “identity” from the inside (looking out) this time. I’ve known all along that my insomnia is caused by my inability to shut down my brain at night. Making “Wide Awake” allowed me to dive head first into the problem — directly into my thought process, both conscious and unconscious – into the very place that provides fuel for my creative life, but paradoxically, also keeps me up at night and makes me exhausted during the day. I wanted to understand the source and seed of some of my deepest conflicts and contradictions and try to render them in ways both visceral and poetic. And cinematic.
At the same time, I want the film to generate a greater understanding of and empathy with the condition of sleeplessness — at both the personal and societal levels. There’s also a good deal of practical advice in the film that can help others with sleep problems as well.
See documentation of Berliner’s installation, exhibition, and film screenings for The Language of Names, or try out the interactive naming tools developed during his residency here (see how popular your name is, read stories about how people got their names, and more).