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On a bright spring morning in May, Dr. George Heckel climbed the stairs to the attic of his home in Rochester, New York, and shot himself. He had a thriving medical practice, a wife and three children, and a beautiful home. Why would a man who seemed to have it all take his life and leave his family devastated?

Twenty years later, his daughter, filmmaker Sally Heckel, 17 at the time of her father's death, started making a non-fiction film exploring her father's despondent state of mind. It soon grew from an expression of anger and accusation toward her father to an in-depth perusal of the suicide and the years surrounding it.

In a storyline that bridges past and present, Heckel weaves home movies of what appears to be an idyllic post-war American childhood with dramatic silent recreations of a home life that reveal a darker side of the American family. The film paints a picture of a man few people really knew, who had, in pursuit of a successful societal and professional position, gradually and inexorably alienated himself from his family, with profound consequences to himself and those around him.

Acting as the film's narrator, Heckel coaxes her family and friends out of their silence. Through their voice-over recollections and reflections, Heckel crafts a layered portrait of an idealized but ambivalent American patriarch, his family, and the tensions that simmered beneath the surface and beyond public view.

This film is masterful. Using home movies from her childhood, poetry, portraits, re-enactments and stills, Sally Heckel presents her family - a family conflicted and traumatized by the intractable depression and suicide of her physician father. Although the central theme is a daughter's quest to understand her father and come to terms with his self-inflicted death, it is much much more. "Unspeakable" is an intimate look at a family, the fractured communication, the longing for connection, the painful and paralyzing shroud of stigma and the persistent courage to move forward out of the darkness.

Michael F Myers, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Brooklyn, NY
Co-author (with Carla Fine) "Touched By Suicide: Hope and Healing After Loss"

"Unspeakable" is truly wonderful. The film captures the confluence of feelings that the suicide of a loved one leaves in its wake: confusion, sadness, anger, blame, guilt, fear, and the need to know. When someone dies by suicide-especially a family member or close friend-we feel crazy, alone, isolated, even with, and sometimes especially with, those closest to us. "Unspeakable" communicates this without hitting us over the head with this frightening reality.

Carla Fine, author "No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One"

Darrell Lance, Barbara Lobb, Eliza Schneider, Laura Otis, Vicki Casarett

Buffalo Niagara Film Festival 2008- Grand Jury Award: The American Falls Award for Best Western New York Film

Film Festivals:
DOX BOX 09, Damascus, Syria
Buffalo Niagara Film Festival 2008, Buffalo, NY

Title #284108
Format: DVD-R