HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405
"Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405" derives its title from a statement by artist Mindy Alper, who suffers from a debilitating combination of depression, anxiety and OCD. Like a lot of Alper's commentary about herself, it's deceptively simple, but gives you a lot of insight into how her mind operates. She's hyper-observant, and constantly takes in a ton of detail about the world, but craves quiet and feels unsafe in a crowd. What could be better than the emotional and physical distance provided by a car?
Frank Stiefel's film relies heavily on narration from Alper - who, along with her mother, is one of only two actual interview subjects - and compliments them with images of her drawings and papier-mâché sculptures. The connection soon becomes clear - the art is Alper's way of communicating with the world, and in many ways, looking at it says more about her state of mind than a dozen interviews or off-the-cuff remarks. (For many years, Alper was completely non-verbal, ONLY communicating through the drawings.)
"Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405" works on two levels at once. It's just a fascinating portrait of a troubled but nonetheless highly intelligent and productive mind. But it's also a reminder that no amount of careful, patient, insightful rumination and self-analysis can really "fix" a person. No matter how hard she thinks about it, Mindy Alper can't change her situation by thinking her way out of it. She needed help from her mom and treatment and therapists and friends, and she needs to work at it every day.
Where to Watch: YouTube
Running time: 40 minutes