Increasing the Visibility of People With Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

Initiative Any Given Day
Grantee Partner Beti Films, Chicago Filmmaker
A filmmaker with mental illness follows three defendants through a specialized mental health probation program. While sharing their rarely seen struggles, she faces her own challenges, making clear just how precarious the ties between people with mental illness, their families and society can be.

In 2015, in the midst of widespread defunding of community mental health care programs across the country, in Chicago, the Cook County Jail has become a default treatment center for people living with mental illness.

While investigating the treatment of detainees, filmmaker Margaret Byrne meets Angela, Dimitar and Daniel, participants in a mental health court probation program. Their friendship gives each of them the courage to be seen at their most vulnerable. In turn, Margaret begins to confront one of the most difficult periods of her life, culminating in hospitalization for depression.

What begins as a heartfelt desire to accurately portray the lives of Angela, Dimitar, and Daniel forces Margaret to reckon with her own history of mental illness. Margaret’s own hospitalization that occurs during the making of the film becomes an inspiration to weave her own story into the film. Byrne’s intimate observations of the three individuals capture the hard-fought triumphs and struggles of living at the intersection of mental illness, poverty, and addiction.

Filmed over five years, the stories of Angela, Dimitar, and Daniel expose a system designed for punishment, yet used as a replacement for mental health care. The absence of support takes a toll on family members and friends whom the three provide for and depend on. The resulting stigma and isolation keep them caught in cycles of victory and defeat.

Any Given Day provides deeply personal insight into the necessity of caring relationships, especially when life is at its most difficult.

Any Given Day premiered at the Hot Doc Canadian International Film Festival in April 2021 where it was named “Best of the Fest” and received an Honorable Mention in the International Spectrum competition. The film had its U.S. Premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival (October 2021) where it won the Chicago Award and the outreach campaign was launched. The film also won Best Documentary Feature at Berlin Independent Film Festival and Mystic Film Festival and the Amplify Award at Austin’s Capital City Black Film Festival. The national broadcast premiere of the film on PBS is scheduled for July of 2022.

Initial reactions to Any Given Day from festival programmers and reviews confirm that the film has the power to change the hearts and minds of audiences as well as catalyze local, state, and potentially national level policies related to the issues and topics presented in the film.

Any Given Day is such a powerful film because it does what all great documentaries do – it places you into the lives of the people it follows, and it asks questions society often neglects. I urge everyone watching this film to watch it with an open mind. Society isn’t usually interested in the perspectives of folks involved with the justice system, but it’s precisely for that reason that we must understand how they got there so that we can figure out how to help others in similar circumstances

Toni Preckwinkle, President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners

This is one of the most moving testaments to human resilience that I’ve ever seen. The very existence of the film is an act of bravery.

Barbara Goslawski, Frameline

It’s the first-person perspective from someone living with mental illness that makes Any Given Day feel unique in the sea of documentaries made on the subject, and it offers an engaging glimpse into the experience of living with mental illness and addiction.

John Corrado, One Movie, Our Views

Any Given Day is affirmation that these journeys are being taken every single day. It is this exact mirror where comprehension and healing begin.

Taylor Beaumont, For Reel Movies

Arresting… an unnerving account of day-to-day, year to year recovery

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune