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Director Maya Forbes tells about her family and itsstruggles with depression, poverty and sexdiscrimination in her new film, “Infinitely Polar Bear.” The film is not like other Hollywood movies that have ahappy ending. Instead “Infinitely Polar Bear” tells aboutan American family and how it reacted to events --some of them humorous, and others serious -- back in the 1970s.


VOA’s Penelope Poulou spoke recently with MayaForbes about how her childhood struggles helped herbecome a successful film writer, producer and director.

Actor Mark Rufallo as Cameron Stuart: “We can go to the Museum of Fine Arts and look at great-grandpapa’sportrait.”

Actress Imogene Wolodarsky as Cameron Stuart’sdaughter Amelia: “Why is his portrait hanging in amuseum?”

Mark Rufallo: “Because a very important artist named John Singer Sargentpainted it.”

Imogene Wolodarsky: “Why?”

Mark Rufallo: “Why? Don’t you know who we are?”

Actor Mark Rufallo plays Cameron Stuart, a member of a once-powerfulfamily. His ancestors had a lot of money many years ago, but now the familyhas very little.

Cameron Stuart has a severe mental condition. He suffers from manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder.

This is how his younger daughter describes the disorder:

“Our dad is totally Polar Bear.”

Mr. Stuart’s older daughter, Amelia, corrects her sister:


Maya Forbes used her family’s story as a model for the Stuarts.

“My father was manic depressive, my mother is African-American, my fatherwas from a wealthy New England family, but we didn’t have any money. Mymother wanted to send us to great schools.”

Cameron Stuart’s mother Pauline reacts to her son’s wife’s decision to get ajob in New York City to support the family: “No, no! Maggie Stuart. You cannotleave your family.”

Actress Zoe Saldana as Maggie Stuart: “Pauline, I’m desperate. We have nomoney.”

Like Maggie, Maya Forbes’ mother left her husband to care for the children. She went to work in New York City, but visited the family every weekend.

“My sister and I were very embarrassed of our situation. We were ashamed, Imean, my father, we, our apartment was a disaster, a mess, my father wasembarrassing and a mess and he at some point he said to us ‘You don’tneed to be, you don't need to hide and you can tell people that I’m manicdepressive -- that’s who I am.’”

Ms. Forbes says people like her film because mental illness has affectedthem in some way.

“People are coming to share their story with me. And most people are affectedby mental illness with somebody they love, whether its a parent of a child or asibling.”

Her film also deals with sexual and racial discrimination. Her mother was well-educated. But Ms. Forbes says she could not get a high-paying job in Bostonbecause she was a black woman.

“My mother going into the world of finance -- there are not a lot of blackwomen in finance, you know, today. I mean, it's not like we've made hugestrides in that arena. And everyone feels that we, we solved the problemsbecause Obama is our president. We’re post-racial. That is not true.”

The director also says that she, like other women, has dealt with sexdiscrimination in Hollywood.

“I don’t know why there aren't more women directors. I just think they aren't handed the big movies, they aren't handed the big movies and those are themovies where you can actually make some money.”

She says it was not easy making a film while raising a family. But she saysher childhood helped her to become independent and strong.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Entertainment Correspondent Penelope Poulou reported this story.Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Growwas the editor.


Words in This Story

portrait – n. a painting, drawing or photograph of a person that usually onlyincludes the person’s head and shoulders

manic depression – n. a mental condition in which a person experiencesperiods of strong excitement and happiness followed by periods of sadnessand depression

ashamed– adj. feeling guilty

mess– n. a very dirty state or condition

embarrass(ing)– v. to make someone or something look foolish

sibling– n. a brother or sister

strides– n. a change or improvement that brings someone closer to a goal

arena– n. an area of activity, interest or competition

handed– v. informal – to be given (a chance)

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