Recover password

‘Homesick’ examines chemical sensitivity

SANTA FE, N.M. — After a six-year span with two different rough cuts, Susan Abod was pretty much ready to throw in the towel on ever seeing her film completed.

Susan Abod, a Santa Fe area resident, directed “Homesick.” (Courtesy of Dual Power Productions)

Susan Abod, a Santa Fe area resident, directed “Homesick.” (Courtesy of Dual Power Productions)

“It was so old. The drives were in storage in my garage,” the Santa Fe area resident said.

But then a disabled friend in another state connected her with a man who has his own production company and whose partner suffers from multiple chemical sensitivities – and “Homesick” found its final form.

A chronicle of her own and others’ journeys to find a safe space to live that would not trigger their chemical sensitivities, “Homesick” launches Reel New Mexico’s third season with a screening 7 p.m. Wednesday at The Performance Space in La Tienda at Eldorado.

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“I was really blown away by its quality,” said Diane Thomas who, with husband Bill Osher, organized the screening series. She added that the organizers are on the lookout for new films and would love to get more submissions from independent New Mexico filmmakers.

Over the last two years, Reel New Mexico, which holds monthly events (except in winter) and asks for but doesn’t insist on a $5 donation at the door, has had a couple of standing-room-only turnouts. “People who come truly enjoy it,” she said of the series. “Some regulars show up whatever the film is.”

Many of the films have come from people, such as Abod, living in Eldorado, while a few had their roots in other parts of the state, Thomas said. “I’ve been amazed at the quality and diversity of films we’ve been getting,” she said, adding that they have been evenly split between documentaries and features.

Thomas, who said she has chemical sensitivities herself, said she will join a panel with Abod and Dr. Ann McCampbell following the screening of “Homesick.”

Abod said she developed chemical sensitivities and fibromyalgia in the mid-’80s and found many people did not understand her condition, thinking “you’re a hysterical person” or “you’re making it all up.”

She happened to see “Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter” (HBO, July 1993) in which a television personality in Canada announced he was HIV-positive, then continued to give updates on his condition.

“I was so moved by that,” Abod said. “It was a very intimate portrait of his process.”

Inspired, she called a local cable station – she lived in Boston at the time – found someone interested in directing a film on her situation, and ended up with “Funny You Don’t Look Sick,” which was distributed nationally by the Cinema Guild. It has been used in doctors’ offices to familiarize people with chemical sensitivities.

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“It was very gratifying,” Abod said. “It felt like I was ‘coming out’ as a disabled person … I was able to connect with other people.

“And, it helped me with my own healing.”

This was from someone who had worked as a singer and composer of songs, but who had no film experience.

“It was a kind of ‘making lemonade out of lemons’ thing,” Abod said. “I just went with the inspiration, not knowing how it would turn out.”

Then, through newsletters, she connected with other chemically sensitive people and, as she struggled to find her own home, she did a road trip in the Southwest, meeting and filming other people who went through similar searches. “Their homes include tents, a house on stilts, a straw bale house and a teepee,” she wrote in her director’s statement.

Since filming started in 1997 and the final film took so long to complete, she was able to update the situations of individuals she featured. For her part, Abod moved to Santa Fe in 2005.

“Homesick” has been shown at a Disabled Students Foundation event at the University of Washington in Seattle, in a couple of spots in Boston, and premiered in Santa Fe in October at the Center for Independent Living, according to Abod.

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