A Summer in the Cage began with a chance meeting between the filmmaker, Ben Selkow, and the subject, Sam Murchison, in the summer of 2000. What began as their collaboration to document life on and around the West 4th Street basketball courts in Manhattan – affectionately referred to as “the Cage” – evolved into a portrait of Sam’s battle with bipolar illness as seen through the lens of Ben’s camera. Using interviews and personal video diaries shot on mini-DV, Hi8 and Super 8mm cameras, as well as archival video and film footage from the last six years, A Summer in the Cage is highly subjective storytelling. The film begins by depicting the seeds of the original street basketball story, with Sam as collaborator and his photographs as the storytelling device. But once Ben (and, by extension, the audience) witnesses Sam’s increasingly manic behavior, caught by accident on video, the film transforms into the story of Sam’s illness. The film subsequently follows Sam over seven years as he lives with this disease, retraces his father’s battle with mental illness and his ultimate suicide, develops an intimate confidence with Ben through their periods of filming together, flirts with suicide himself, and tries to come to terms with the uncertainty of his future. The filmmaker-subject relationship explodes in 2006 with Sam’s third manic episode. Ultimately, the film asks the question, When do you turn the camera off?
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