Resilience is a companion film to Redford's earlier doc Paper Tigers
Nobody gets out of childhood without suffering at least a few painful experiences.
But for some kids the trauma is much more severe: sexual or physical abuse, neglect, the anguish of parents divorcing. For these children, the impact of such experiences can affect the rest of their lives, not to mention society as a whole.
James Redford's Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, explores an emerging understanding in the medical community that debilitating health conditions in adults can often be traced back to childhood trauma.
"Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior," according to a synopsis provided by the film's publicity team.
Redford first examined scientific research into what has been categorized as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Paper Tigers. The film looked at an alternative school for traumatized children in Washington State which, taking the new research into account, "radically changed its approach to student discipline, with radically positive results," according to a statement from the director.
"Exposure to chronic and adverse stress (and the altered brain function that results) leaves a child in a fruitless search for comfort and escape from a brain and body that is permanently stuck in flight or fight. That comfort comes in the form of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, food and more," according to the Paper Tigers website.
"We started making Resilience to make this science digestible and relevant to everyone, and to showcase some of the brave and creative individuals who are putting that science into action. There is a growing group of pediatricians, educators and communities who are proving that cycles of disease and adversity can be broken," Redford wrote in his director's statement.
He added, "Our goal with these two [films] is to make 'toxic stress' and 'ACEs' household terms, so that individuals and communities are empowered to improve the health and wellbeing of this and future generations."
If you detected a resemblance between James Redford and Robert Redford, you are not off base. James is the son of the actor/director and Sundance Institute founder.
Both men have dedicated years to showcasing important societal issues through the medium of documentary film. The elder Redford executive produced the documentary series Death Row Stories and Chicagoland and the 1992 documentary Incident at Oglala, among other nonfiction films.
James Redford has directed films on clean energy, dyslexia, water scarcity in the Western US, and one film with a very personal backstory.
According to his official bio, "Inspired by his own life-saving liver transplant at the age of 30, his first HBO documentary, The Kindness of Strangers explored the hidden heroism of donor families."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.