Fireworks and bipolar: a cinematic metaphor

Scottish film company Synchronicity Films are exploring bipolar disorder and the stigma of mental illness in a new independent feature film, 'Fireworks', supported by the Wellcome Trust.

'Fireworks' is a warm-hearted comedy about Kat, a 13-year-old London girl who discovers that her Uncle Gillies is actually her biological father and runs away to Scotland to meet him. Gillies, played by Ewen Bremner ('Trainspotting', 'Black Hawk Down', 'Snatch'), has bipolar disorder and is treated by lithium, which turns out to be an essential ingredient for their bonding project – building a firework.

The initial script was supported by a Wellcome Trust Development Award. It went on to win the Grand Prize in the American Screenwriters Association International Script Competition and Silver in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards for Drama, with the Wellcome Trust now offering co-production funding.

Writer and director Hannah Robinson says: "The Wellcome Trust has supported our film 'Fireworks' right from the start. We cannot thank them enough for their belief in this project and our aim to make a wide-appeal indie comedy that will destigmatise bipolar disorder, while exploring the extraordinary chemical coincidence: that lithium carbonate is used both to treat bipolar disorder and to make fireworks, which are almost a perfect cinematic metaphor for the condition."

'Fireworks' is Hannah Robinson’s first feature film as director, and it tackles a subject matter close to her heart. She grew up with a father who suffered from bipolar disorder, and she feels that the many facets of the condition are too often left unexplored.

Tom Ziessen, Senior Public Engagement Adviser at the Wellcome Trust, added: "We are committed to engaging the public with issues of health and wellbeing, so we are delighted to be supporting 'Fireworks'. The film not only explores the stigma attached to mental health problems, and the explosive nature of bipolar disorder, but is a touching story that will resonate with audiences and spark debate."

The script was supported through its development by Dr Michael Smith, Associate Medical Director, Mental Health Services, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. He says of the project: "Just as the right dose of lithium can be a lifesaver, but too much is toxic, 'Fireworks' finds a touching balance between the humour and the sadness experienced by families living with bipolar disorder. This is a serious topic met with a deft light-heartedness."

Throughout production of the film, the 'Fireworks' team will offer a peek inside the world of independent film-making through the film's website and its Facebook and Twitter profiles, where they will be posting updates about shortlisted young hopefuls auditioning for the role of Kat, running competitions and polls, and inviting the public to contribute to the film.