Mark Landvik grew up in Juneau and is now a professional snowboarder. Just three years ago he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
That diagnosis is part of the reason the film, “Andy Irons: Kissed By God,” which focuses on a pro surfer’s struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction and his death. The film will be premiering at Gold Town Nickelodeon at 7 p.m. today and again at 9 p.m. Friday.
“I think the film is super-important because there is no real help or recovery for bipolar,” Landvik, who currently lives in Bellingham, Washington, said in a phone interview with the Empire Wednesday. “There is a huge stigma with mental diseases that still needs to be addressed.”
Landvik said he watched the film Tuesday night and the impression it left with him is that even athletes at the peak of their performance can and do struggle with mental illnesses.
“It left with me a ton of empathy for the family,” Landvik said. “But it also showed that there is this huge gap on what we need to do next with mental illness.”
Irons, who died age 32 in 2010 of a heart attack related to drug use, grew up in Hawaii and learned to surf in Kauai. From there, he eventually became one of the best surfers in the world. He won three world titles from 2002-2004, three Quiksilver Pro France titles from 2003-2005, two Rip Curl Pro Search titles from 2006-2007 and 20 elite tour victories during his career. The film features interviews with Andy’s wife, Lyndie Irons, his brother, Bruce Irons, and surfing legend Kelly Slater among others.
Teri Tibbett, Advocacy Coordinator Alaska Mental Health Board and Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, who also watched the film Tuesday said it goes beyond a normal sports movie.
“It is not a typical sports film,” Tibbett said in a phone interview with the Empire Wednesday. “It’s not just about the rise and fall of an athlete. It does that, but the center of the film really does focus on the struggle. It is a common trait with highly-creative and successful people that they often struggle balancing their creative genius with the real world.”
Tibbett added that film, being shown as part of the lead-up to Disability Pride day on Saturday, shows that disabilities can go beyond just what we can see.
“Disabilities include people with intellectual and physical disabilities, but they also include people with mental disabilities,” Tibbett said.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder “sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy and activity levels that affect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. These shifts in mood and energy levels are more severe than the normal ups and downs that are experienced by everyone.” According to NIMH, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults are diagnosed with bipolar and 4.4 percent of U.S. adults experience bipolar at one point in their lives.
The power of mental illness and addition, Landvik said, is what he said he believes people should take away from the film.
“The best thing about the film is that you see someone on top of the world and people can see the greatness that eventually shows the downfall,” Landvik. “Unfortunately, (Andy) ended up falling out.”
In addition to “Andy Irons: Kissed by God,” Gold Town will also be showing “Keep the Change,” a fictional film about a romance between two people with autism spectrum disorder. It will start at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and will be shown with active closed captioning.
Gold Town co-owner Collette Costa said being a part of National Disability Day is part of the theater’s goal of being an active part of the community.
“Here at Gold Town we strive to to push collaborative events with members of the community,” Costa said in a phone interview with the Empire Wednesday. “What I love about these films is that they both speak about dealing with disabilities, but in different ways.”
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.