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Actor Joe Pantoliano Becomes A Director, And Champions Compassion for "Mental Dis-Ease," In New Documentary
April 27, 2010  | By David Bianculli

no-kidding-joey-talking.jpgBeginning today, Amazon has begun offering exclusive distribution of a new documentary by Joe Pantoliano, the actor long familiar from such films and TV shows as Risky Business, EZ Streets and The Matrix. But this time, as writer-producer-director of No Kidding?!! Me, Too!, the performer known as Joey Pants isn't hiding behind a role. He's being as honest as he can, about his personal battles with depression and other forms of what he calls "mental dis-ease," and is encouraging others to do likewise...


The approach behind No Kidding, which is several years is the making, is to get people to talk -- and to listen closely as they do -- about various mental ailments and stresses facing them. Pantoliano, as his own Exhibit A, talks to his therapist, his loved ones and to strangers, about his own problems dealing with fame, self-worth, substance abuse and other things. He's open, and honest, and, in this context, very vulnerable.


But what he's after, as both the maker of this documentary and its principal correspondent, isn't to tell his own story, but to listen to other people tell theirs. "To know all of you," he says, "is to know me." And while that may sound self-centered or selfish, it's actually the reverse. Listen to these stories, he's saying, and you may learn about yourself.

And it's not just theory. Joey Pants talks, individually and collectively, with a handful of people who have been through a lot. A suicidal surgeon. A young woman who becomes a self-mutilating cutter. A young man who throws himself out a ninth-story window. And so on, from military veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury to others with clinical depression.


Near the end of No Kidding, several of them are gathered, in an intimate circle, to tell their stories. Jordan, the attempted suicide, tells his story of surviving that attempt, and deciding to move forward with his life, despite crippling injuries. As he's talking, Casey, the young woman who had cut herself repeatedly, so relates with Jordan, and considers him so brave, that she grabs his hand, then weeps openly and gratefully.

"I've had those same thoughts," she says, referring to his checklist of ways he would and wouldn't consider killing himself. Hearing someone else admit to the same things, she tells him, gives her strength.


Most of this touching, tender documentary is like that. In another scene, Pantoliano is walking, in front of the Vietnam Memorial, with Kelly Kennedy, a health reporter for the Army Times, who recounts some of the stories she reported from the current war. As her stories get more horrifying, the camera gets closer, so that only her face, and her words, fill the space.

When she's through describing her first-hand account of war,the impact is both emotional and instructive. It's not amazing that many soldiers who survive come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What's amazing is that anyone doesn't.

No Kidding?!! Me Too! can be purchased from Amazon, in its full 73-minute length, by clicking HERE. Next month, on May 24, a shortened version will be televised on public television by New York's WNET, and may get wider distribution elsewhere. But why wait?

If you think you, or someone you know, could benefit from the facts and stories and examples in this non-preachy, casually acessible documentary, there's no better move than to act now. For more information on Pantoliano's nonprofit organization, visit the No Kidding Me 2! website HERE. And for the latest, celebrity-filled public service announcement about this topic, featuring Harrison Ford and others, watch the YouTube video HERE.

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