THE SACRED DISEASE is about the thin line between illness and cure, between madness and the mundane, between this world and a hidden one. It is very much about yearning for the unknown, about “disorder” as a means to veiled knowledge or experience. 

The film is an attempt to recreate the feeling of these visceral, otherworldly seizures, which I experienced in my early 20s. Though classified as a form of epilepsy, these sudden alterations in consciousness felt like a glimpse of something beyond language, inexplicable and transcendent.

I’m interested in the limits of human knowledge, chasing a horizon that will never stop receding. This is a story about those who take comfort in the chaos and mystery of the unknown. They do not explain away the questions that send them searching.

  • Writer/Director/Editor/Sound Designer - Erica Scoggins
  • Cinematographer - Albrecht Von Grünhagen
  • Producers - Dakin Cranwell, Skye Skii, Ian Flannery, Sinah Ober
  • Starring Kyla Ledes, Abigail Eiland, Derek McLenithan, Susannah Devereux, Rebecca Lines, Amber Scoggins

 

"With the SACRED DISEASE, writer/director Erica Scoggins crafts an intelligent and deeply elegiac portrait of the space between madness and the mundane concerning little known Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. The result is a work of immense beauty that captures our imagination and introduces us to a new filmmaker of vast talent and conviction." -Justin Hogan, Award Winning Producer 

"Performances are astonishing, cinematography combined with exact staging is perfect. Mystery, magic, deep human complexity all join together for a riveting experience. A voice that will change what we expect from cinema."                                                                                                                                          -Deborah Lavine, Film Directing Program Chair, California Institute of the Arts

Interview for CLERMONT-FERRAND INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

Shot on Location in East Tennessee

visit https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredDiseaseFilm/ for updates on upcoming screenings and festivals.


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Full List of Screenings and Awards

  • 40th CLERMONT-FERRAND INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, France) FEBRUARY 2018

  • NEW RENAISSANCE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, Amsterdam) MARCH 2018

    • Best International Short Film 

    • Best Actress (Kyla Ledes)

  • 54th VIENNALE – VIENNA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (European Premiere, Vienna, Austria) OCTOBER 2016

  • TABAKALERA, International Contemporary Culture Centre of San Sebastián / MARCH 2018

  • 8TH CAPITAL CITY FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, Lansing, MI) APRIL 2018

  • 48th NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL (Southeastern Premiere, Nashville, TN, USA) APRIL 2017

  • 11th THESS INT'L SHORT FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, Thessaloniki, Greece) SEPTEMBER 2017

    • Cinematic Achievement Award 

  • 28th NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, New Orleans) OCTOBER 2017

  • 11th BUFFALO INT'L FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, Buffalo, NY, USA) OCTOBER 2017

  • ASWAN INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, Egypt) FEBRUARY 2018

  • 1st CUMP FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, Nairobi, Kenya) JUNE 2017

  • FOUR SEASONS FILM FESTIVAL (Official Selection, London, United Kingdom) FEBRUARY 2018

  • 2nd FICIT - FESTIVAL DE CINE INDEPENDENT DE TRUJILLO (Official Selection, Peru) SEPTEMBER 2017


Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

A common list of symptoms includes:

  • déjà-vu or jamais vu experiences
  • gastrointestinal upset, rising epigastric sensation, or butterflies with nausea 
  • Feelings of fear, panic, anxiety or euphoria
  • unusual smells, sounds
  • hallucinations (visual and aural)
  • Alice in Wonderland effect (objects appear faraway, smaller, or larger than they are)
  • formication (the sensation of bugs crawling on skin)
  • automatism (unconscious movement), lip-smacking, chewing, twitching, forced turning of the head, undressing
  • amnesic period post seizure

 

Lobe of My Existence (2010)

copper plate etching, ink on paper / 14" x 17"

This piece was my very first attempt to capture the essence of my seizures. An overwhelming sense of déjà-vu, a heavy foreboding premonition rather than the everyday use of the term. The feeling that something terrible was about to happen. Sudden profound fear, as if I was dying. My surroundings stretching and expanding in my perception. Stomach rising as if it would fly were my body lighter. Bugs pricking my skin all over. Left hand twitching ever so slightly. And the most perplexing, most haunting part--strange, uncontrollable thoughts, words, and images flooding my mind. Like a cryptic message from beyond. All the while, holding my breath, becoming dizzy. Then in a flash, back in the normal world, the images and words I had just received, gone. Several minutes of confusion. And a lasting fatigue. 

“‘I can be perfectly well in every way when suddenly I feel snatched away. I seem to feel as if I’m in two places at once but in neither place at all--it is a feeling of being remote… It is like being outside a room and looking in through a keyhole, or as if I’m God looking down on the world but not belonging to it.”

-from Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations

"At the very last conscious moment before the fit began, he had time to say to himself clearly and consciously, "Yes, for this moment one might give one's whole life!"

-Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

Physical Body (2015)

Short Comic created during the scriptwriting phase of The Sacred Disease.


History

TLE is an area of examination among religious scholars and art historians as many of its symptoms and interictal (between seizures) aspects carry many of the characteristics of religious prophets and prolific artists and writers. 

If an epileptic seizure is focused in a particular sweet spot in the temporal lobe, a person won´t have motor seizures, but instead something more subtle. The effect is something like a cognitive seizure, marked by changes of personality, hyperreligiosity (an obsession with religion and feelings of religious certainty), hypergraphia (extensive writing on a subject, usually about religion), the false sense of an external presence, and, often, the hearing of voices that are attributed to a god. Some fraction of history´s prophets, martyrs, and leaders appear to have had temporal lobe epilepsy.

-David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

While postmortem diagnoses are ill-advised, there is evidence to suggest Vincent Van Gogh suffered from TLE, that his violent episodes and public disrobings were symptoms of his condition. He was a prolific writer, sending over 800 letters to his brother Theo, often calling his episodes "the storm within." Dostoyevsky and Lewis Carroll were both known epileptics, each dealing with the subject in their work. Alice in Wonderland's famous rabbit hole, distorted presentation of time and space, and bizarre use of language stems in part from Carroll's own seizure experience.

 

Sources and Additional Reading

Seized: Temporal Lobe Epilepsy as a Medical, Historical, and Artistic Phenomenon by Eve LaPlante

The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience by Kevin Nelson

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

A History of Madness by Michel Foucault

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

The Letter of Vincent Van Gogh, edited by Ronald de Leeuw

The Epilepsy Foundation: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-epilepsy-syndromes/temporal-lobe-epilepsy