Director: Jordan Melamed
Screenwriters: Michael Bacall, Blayne Weaver

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Jordan Melamed's piercing Manic explores the themes of teen rage and alienation by taking a hard look at the unwilling residents of a juvenile mental institution. In peril of falling through the system, life inside the Plexiglas windows of Northwood becomes a microcosm of their troubled worlds. Plastic forks, barren walls, pharmaceuticals, and shoes without laces are part of the daily routine. And it is here, in the confederacy of the mentally unstable, that a group of delinquents learns to confront the source of their fury.

When Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds himself committed to a psychiatric ward, he is determined to wait out his sentence in silence. But even he cannot maintain the transparent shield of calmness that is the veneer for a red-hot anger which bursts through with little coaxing. The watchful psychiatrist Dave (Don Cheadle) carries the burden of unearthing the shreds of humanity left in his charges and tries to kindle a different kind of fire within each of them. During a particularly difficult day, a pick-up game of basketball (and the tinge of freedom that comes with getting their shoelaces back to play) seems to be the best therapy of all.

Using the visual style of cinema vérité comprised of handheld camerawork, the mesmerizing compositions reflect the complex psychodynamics of forced group therapy. Brimming with authenticity and intelligence, Manic's spellbinding performances speak a rare truth about the volatile nature of friendships forged under 24-hour supervision.

— Chantal Van Riet

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]