“Nice to Meet You All”: Short Documentary Defends Proper Representation of “DID”

Writer/director Guen Murroni discusses 'Nice to Meet You All', her short celebratory documentary of Dissociative Identity Disorder

(Image: Photo still courtesy of the 'Nice to Meet You All' Crowdfunder Page)

Nice to Meet You All is a short documentary about the experience of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in everyday life. Currently raising funds for post-production, this passion project, directed by Guen Murroni, aims to present a celebration of “DID” in its human form, opposed to the commercialised and conflicting attempts to convey the disorder on screen.

York Vision recently got the chance to chat with Guen to discuss her short, ‘DID’, and more.

Guen Murroni is an award-winning writer/director, with films being nominated at BAFTA and BIFA-recognised festivals, and being nominated for Best British Short at Iris Prize (2019). Having written a novel, The Jiggle, listed at the Bridport prize (2018), which follows similar subject matter, it is clear that Guen wishes to do more than simply entertain. “It’s always been a personal theme that I come back to regularly in my work”. Further discussing why ‘DID’ felt like such an important subject to pursue in her work, the director discussed that simply researching the disorder opened up a whole community of individuals, who have been craving fair representation in the media. 

“I was looking into Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is when ‘alters’ are created  to cope with trauma, alters being other personalities, other than yourself, as well as detachment and amnesia. I found this group on Facebook and I wrote to them, a woman from the US replied and we started a conversation about her life. She developed Dissociative Identity Disorder resulting from the trauma she experienced from being sold into human trafficking rings as a child.”

The short film explores the story of this woman. Resisting the urge to commercialise or sensationalise, the short explores the everyday life of the disorder, alongside five of her sixty-seven alters. Nice to Meet You All is aiming to contribute to the mental health narrative, but pulling away the common trappings of modern cinema or “misery porn” as Guen referred to it. In emphasising her intentions further, the director was clearly motivated to present a genuine story, with sprinkles of surreal humour, much like the experience of such disorders.

“I wanted to focus on DID a bit more, to talk about it in a different way. I’m fed up of not having opportunities open up to the people that either go through the issue or that are willing to show a different side to it. There are still a lot of things that are treated really lightly in the media, so you end up detaching a general audience from the actual problem, or they’re treated really dramatically, and you’re still detaching the general audience.”

Guen further emphasised her frustrations with the current tropes of modern cinema, which is something that personally, I have never considered, but will certainly think about more. The director edged her issues towards the inaccurate representation of DID on screen, “If you look at TV shows or at interviews, there’s always a trope of somebody switching on screen.” M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (2017) came to mind as something guilty of taking advantage of this trope, and placing a spin that is exaggerated, thus making it difficult to draw the fact from fiction. 

The director was clear that she in no way dismissed films of this sort, “I don’t want to cancel people, if you want to make a film about mental health in your own way, do it.” Rather, she is simply filling a gap that’s been left empty for far too long. An appropriate and accurate portrayal within the media isn’t something that should necessarily replace the constant stream of exploitation entertainment, but rather sit alongside it. What is important is that both of these mediums are just as important as each other. In fact, the raw realism of the documentary has been praised by those in the psychological field. Katy Gilardi, a psychodynamic therapist, discussed the significance of the viewer as we “witness the efforts made by the sufferer to bring them together in order to build a cohesive narrative of their internal world.”

Guen doesn’t want to stop with a short. Upon asking what her plans were for the future, she quickly replied “I’ll do the feature of this short, but fiction. That’s in the works… it will follow this similar story; I’m just trying to find the shape of it”. Guen also mentioned that she’s “got other things in the bag, I’ve got more political work”. It seems that Nice to Meet You All is just the tip of the iceberg in this directors’ intentions, as she aims to provide her fresh slant on ever-important socio-political topics. 

As the interview progressed the topic of conversation moved towards 2020, which has been a challenging year for most. This has been no different for Guen, although she was able to source some solace from self-isolation and various lockdowns, as the period enabled her to allow time for her creative interests.

I work in the film industry in other roles and I’ve had the luck of working all the way through the pandemic. It helped me structure the creativity as well, l but you have to be careful of burn out”.  We further discussed the possible positives to be drawn from the pandemic, as people struggling in isolation have encouraged a more open discussion of mental health. “It’s definitely a good thing that people talk about it, and I hope that the talking gets into the practical side of things like funding, and education”. Guen’s school of thought clearly comes from a place of understanding the importance of simply talking. The open conversation is important; however, the necessity of inclusion was further emphasised.

“I think if the conversation grows organically where everybody is included, then that’s a step forward, otherwise, it remains a trend, and trends have a finite amount of time before the next wave comes along”.

The writer/director is honest and firm in her views that commercialisation of what can effectively become a trend is a very dangerous thing. For a subject matter that is so delicate, communication and education is so important. Guen noted that “depression is widespread, and I think it’s talked about a lot, but it’s not understood necessarily.” It is clear that projects like Nice to Meet You All are seeking to create a stripped-down celebration of such afflictions, without sensationalism or distortion of the truth. 

According to Guen the short is definitely reaching final stages. “I mean we’ve shot it. I think post-production needs a bit of help, it’s there, it just needs a little push”. The Crowdfunder for this project (link at the bottom) only has a few days left on its run and has gained considerable support from individuals within the DID community and beyond. Guen is hoping the short can make an impact on every viewer regardless of their connection to the topic, “If you laugh, or you cry, or if you find it interesting and you look into the subject yourself, I did my job well”. 

To support Guen’s project and learn about Dissociative Identity Disorder follow the link below. The deadline for the Crowdfunder ends on 30 January.

Nice To Meet You All | Indiegogo