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Wide Awake, April 29

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Saturday, April 29, 2006
5:45 p.m. Wide Awake
Alan Berliner (U.S., 2005)

Alan Berliner's obsessive personal documentary Wide Awake explores the filmmaker's lifelong battle with insomnia as he struggles with creative neurosis and the oncoming birth of his first child. Berliner, a confirmed night owl, uses this as a jumping-off point to dig deep into the notion that true creativity can only come from personal chaos and pure exhaustion. Brilliantly moving between found footage and interviews with sleep experts and exasperated family members, Wide Awake bristles with extraordinary insight about the power of sleep on the waking mind. For the first time in any of his films, Berliner places himself center stage—singing, yawning, even testing line readings for his crew—all the while providing a humorous counterpoint to the meandering mix of clips and talking heads. The centerpiece of Wide Awake is an extended sequence in which a burned-out and bleary Berliner drinks his first cup of coffee in thirty-one years and then takes the viewer on a dizzying tour of his work studio. After viewing his enormous collection of film footage, three decades of methodically clipped news photographs, and a trove of photo albums of anonymous people, it becomes apparent that finding a sleep cure for the highly strung Berliner will not be an easy task. Wide Awake thoroughly delves into the subject of sleep and ultimately becomes an extraordinary document on the artistic process and what happens when our eyes are closed.

—Thomas Logoreci

• Written by Berliner. Photographed by Ian Vollmer. (90 mins)