A film that balances the precision of a Swiss watch with the messiness of a restless mind, Wide Awake is filmmaker Alan Berliner’s uniquely personal tour through his life-long obsession with insomnia.
In the spirit of his highly acclaimed experimental documentary films, Intimate Stranger (1991), Nobody’s Business (1996), and The Sweetest Sound (2001), Berliner once again uses his own life as a laboratory – this time to confront both the anguish of his sleeplessness, and the blessing of extra time that it
Berliner uses both metaphor and candid first-person observations to illuminate how an obsessive mind that won’t shut down at night leaves him feeling “jet lagged in his own time zone.” Incorporating hundreds of archival film clips, consultations with sleep specialists, an overnight stay at a sleep lab, conversations with family members, home movies and dream visualizations – all woven together by a strikingly dynamic sound design -- Wide Awakeis a cinematically innovative film that pushes at the borders of documentary storytelling. In many ways Wide Awake is also a film about filmmaking. We see footage documenting the process of making Wide Awake, including shots of Berliner recording narration, talking with his film crew, working at his desk and editing at his computer. There’s even a raucously caffeinated tour of his studio, in which we begin to understand a lot more about Berliner’s obsessions and how they serve him as a filmmaker. As the film progresses, Berliner reveals more and more about his secret life as a “night owl,” and we learn how he has turned the very obsessive energy that keeps him up at night into a source of fuel and inspiration for his creative work.
The birth of his son Eli brings great joy, but also forces Berliner’s to re-think how he has been coping with his sleep problems; suddenly he is no longer just “jet lagged in his own time zone,” but now confronts the reality that he is “living in a different time zone from his own family.” Frustrated by the impact of his sleep problems on their marriage, his wife Shari issues an ultimatum that: “things have got to change.”
Berliner is torn between the creative passion he derives from the night, and the emotional pulls of love and responsibility he feels for his family. There are no easy answers. By the end of Wide Awake, viewers are sure to ponder not only whether Berliner can be cured by what he’s learned about insomniax but with the stakes so high, whether he really wants to be. A film about obsession. About seeing in the dark. About the emotional tugs of love and family. About creativity itself. Portrait of an artist as insomniac.
WRITTEN & EDITED
By Alan Berliner
DIRECTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY
2ND CAMERA INTERVIEWS
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE RESEARCH
ONLINE EDITOR / COLORIST
MacDonald & Associates
ADDITIONAL ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE AND PHOTOGRAPHS
The Associated Press
The Douris Corporation
Goldcrest Films International Ltd.
Dr. William C. Dement, MD, PhD. Director
Sleep Disorder Clinic & Research Center
Dr. Leonid Kayumov, PhD. Director
Sleep Neuropsychiatry Institute
University of Toronto
Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D
President & Chief Scientist
Dr. Richard D. Simon Jr., MD Medical Director
Kathryn Severyns Dement Sleep Disorders Center
Walla Walla, WA
Dr. Art Spielman, PhD. Associate Director
Center for Sleep Medicine,
Weill Medical College
NY Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell University
Dr. Jodi Mindel
Dr. Jed Black
Lenox Hill Hospital
Anne S. Lewis
1010 WINS News Radio
The Standby Program, Inc.
Dr. Paul Wagner
Dr. Sidney Wu
Alan Berliner Infrared Camera 3:00AM