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CAN: Mental Illness and Recovery in the Asian-American Community
*Honorary Mention, Documentary Category, Voice Awards 2012
CAN is a seminal film about Asian Americans suffering from mental illness. In a culture where mental problems are often viewed as a stigma that brings shame to the family, this documentary breaks an important silence.
Can Truong was among millions of refugee "boat people" fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s. In the United States he becomes a model student, aspiring to be a doctor. After graduating at the top of his high school class and being accepted as a pre-med student at the University of Chicago, he begins experiencing difficulties and is diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. After numerous attempts to continue his studies, he is forced to leave the university due to difficulties concentrating and studying.
After leaving school, Can experiments unsuccessfully with shock treatments and medications and becomes involved in the "mental health consumer movement" which focuses on recovery through self-determination and peer support. Inspired by his peers, he embarks on a healing journey of a different kind - trying to resolve cultural differences with his traditional Confucian father, deconstructing his painful childhood wounds, volunteering with mental health organizations that promote recovery, and exploring spiritual and holistic healing modalities. Can ultimately reconciles with his father and graduates with a degree in marketing.