“Sick” tells the story of a woman institutionalized for being gay

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It’s a nightmare scenario: You’re 16 and your parents ship you off to a psychiatric hospital after finding out you’re gay. A year and a half later they release you, only to lock you up again after you confess to your parents that you’re still gay. In total, you spend five years in that hellhole. That would break anyone. It broke Ana Dragicevic.

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Sick (Bolesno) is a new documentary by writer/director Hrvoje Mabic. The Croatian film follows a year in Ana’s life, which audiences soon find out is a lot more about the past than it is the present. Tonally, the movie puts you in Ana’s shoes–drenched in depression.

Most of Ana’s early adult years saw her lonely and isolated. More than anything, she wanted to meet a woman who, “wouldn’t look at me like I’m crazy.” She found her in Martina. The two are planning to marry in Amsterdam, but as the movie progresses you can’t help thinking that might not be the greatest of ideas.

Ana has a lot of issues to work through, not the least of which is her paranoia. Despite being happy with Martina, she worries that she might screw her over like her parents did. And boy, did they ever do a number on her.

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At 16, Ana fell in love with a girl at art school. Her parents, who had been very loving up until then, couldn’t accept this and sent her to a psychiatric hospital under the guise that she was a drug addict. They found an accomplice in the hospital’s director, Doctor Mirjana Vulin, who took on the task of curing Ana of her “disease.”

Ana was in the hospital for four months before she received her first visit from her parents. It was torture–no exaggeration. After nine months of resisting, she lied and told Dr. Vulin that she was a drug addict. That was all the doctor needed to hear to move on and treat Ana for homosexuality. Realizing that the doctor wanted to hear her lies, Ana eventually told her she liked a boy from the outside. The hospital subsequently released her but then came a crucial mistake: she put her faith in her parents and told them she still liked girls. Back to the hospital she went, but, this time, they kept her away from other patients. Month after month of nightmares followed.

Back in the present, Ana is seeing a therapist and taking a bunch of pills to keep her sane. She has PTSD. She’s suicidal and prone to self-harm when she’s having flashbacks, a fact her fiancée knows well. Martina, who has been incredibly supportive and patient, wants them to move on and just be happy. But Ana is stuck in the past and set on revenge.

Ana is suing her parents and Dr. Vulin. The Croatian media is all over her case and she has no qualms about making it clear it’s revenge that keeps her going. In the background, her relationship suffers. Will she wise up to this in time? Is there even space in her heart to truly receive and give love?

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Sick features beautiful cinematography and smart editing that perfectly accompanies Ana’s storytelling. There’s a somber mood to the doc that captures her haunted past wholly and magnificently. The protagonist may divide you at times, but the quality of this film won’t–Sick is a deeply intriguing watch.

Check in with your local LGBT film festival to find out when Sick will be playing near you. You can also visit the Facebook page of the film’s production company for updates on screenings and more.

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