Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia have roots in more than just a distorted sense of self-image.
"This is not something that's just wanting to be skinny. It's more than an image thing," said Mahopac filmmaker Jeffrey Cobelli, who directed the documentary Someday Melissa. "While it can be those things—the thing I learned is that it is so much more. You can't just blame it on society, on schools, on friends, on parents. It's everything combined."
Someday Melissa was born out of a tragedy for one Montville, NJ, family.
Ater five years battling bulimia, Melissa Avrin lost her life on May 6, 2009. She was 19-years-old.
Melissa's mother Judy Avrin founded the non-profit organization Someday Melissa following her daughter's death "to promote recognition and awareness of eating disorders and the importance of early treatment," according to its website.
The hour-long documentary by the same name will screen at on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. The film, based largely on Melissa's journal entries, will be followed by a Q&A session with Judy Avrin and Jennie J. Kramer—executive director and founder of Metro Behavioral Health Associates—along with JBFC Executive Director Stephen Apkon.
Melissa herself was an aspiring filmmaker. One particular journal entry inspired her mother to pursue a documentary:
I’ll eat breakfast.
I’ll keep a job for more than 3 weeks.
I’ll have a boyfriend for more than 10 days.
I’ll love someone.
I’ll travel wherever I want.
I’ll make my family proud.
I’ll make a movie that will change lives.
“After going through her journals and seeing what kind of pain she was in,” Judy Avrin at the Montclair Art Museum last March, “I knew we had to tell Melissa’s story. I knew that lots of other teens could relate to her struggles.”
Judy Avrin also struggled with buliminia, but overcame the disorder.
Cobelli said he was surprised at how open Melissa's parents, brother and friends were when interviewed for the film just a few months after her death.
"I feel like everybody killed it," he said.
As for the finished film: "People should expect to have a hard time getting through it," Cobelli said. "I would expect people to take away a little more than they are used to takng away from learning about eating disorders—but also some hope. We do take away some positive experiences."
Cobelli said Judy Avrin receives messages all time time from people who say the film inspired them to make life-saving changes.
"We interviewed people who are success stories. Not everybody ends up like Melissa," he said. "That's exactly why she did this."
Tickets to the screening of "Someday Melissa" at the Jacob Burns Film Center tomorrow are $6 for members and $11 for members and can be purchased in advance here.