Jennifer Brea

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Jennifer Brea
Alma materHarvard University
Occupation(s)Filmmaker and activist

Jennifer Brea is an American documentary filmmaker and activist. Her debut feature, Unrest, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and received the US Documentary Special Jury Award For Editing.[1][2] Brea also co-created a virtual reality film which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.[3]



Brea was a PhD student at Harvard University when she became suddenly ill with a high fever and became bedridden. She was initially misdiagnosed with conversion disorder, but eventually was identified as having myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).[4][5][6][7][8] In 2013, she began making a documentary film from bed about her experience.[9][10][11] Initially called "Canary in a Coal Mine," it raised significant production funds on Kickstarter via a campaign that mobilized the online community of many other homebound and bedbound patients and their families.

Unrest premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS's Independent Lens on January 8, 2018.[12][13] It was shortlisted for an Oscar for best documentary film.[14]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 2014, The Root recognized her as one of the hundred most influential African-Americans in its Root100 list.[15]

Brea was also recognized as ProHealth's "2017 ME/CFS Patient Advocate Of The Year."[16]


In 2015 she co-founded #MEAction, a global network of patients living with ME.[17][18][19] MEAction went on to spearhead the #MillionsMissing movement, a patient-centered protest in which hundreds of empty shoes were displayed in order to represent the 25% of patients with ME who are housebound or bedbound.[20][21] In June 2016, Brea gave a TED Talk on her experience as a person with ME.[22][23]


In 2012, Brea married Omar Wasow, co-founder of BlackPlanet[24] and currently an assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley.


  1. ^ "unrest". Archived from the original on 2017-06-29. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  2. ^ "U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award For Editing". 29 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Tribeca Film Festival".
  4. ^ "The New Science Of Exhaustion". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  5. ^ "Chronic fatigue syndrome activists launch 'uprising' from their beds". Al Jazeera America Tonight. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  6. ^ "A New Name, and Wider Recognition, for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". The New Yorker. 2015-02-27. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  7. ^ Romm, Cari. "A Biological Basis for Chronic-Fatigue Syndrome". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  8. ^ "Felled by 'Devastating Disease Doctors Have Never Heard of'". ABC News. 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  9. ^ "Interview: Jennifer Brea Talks About Obstacles, Adjustments, and Inspiration". Archived from the original on 2017-01-08. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  10. ^ "Felled by 'Devastating Disease Doctors Have Never Heard of'". ABC News. 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  11. ^ "Chronic fatigue syndrome activists launch 'uprising' from their beds". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  12. ^ Grater, Tom (2017-08-25). "Sundance prize-winning doc 'Unrest' gets UK release". ScreenDaily. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  13. ^ Morfoot, Addie (2017-06-22). "PBS' Independent Lens Announces Season 16 Slate (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  14. ^ Pedersen, Erik (2017-12-08). "Oscars: Documentary Feature Shortlist Cuts Field To 15". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  15. ^ "The Root 100 – 2014". The Root. 2014-01-01. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  16. ^ Verrillo, Erica (March 5, 2018). "ProHealth Is Proud To Announce Its 2017 ME/CFS Patient Advocate Of The Year: Jennifer Brea". ProHealth. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Protests Tuesday". National Pain Report. 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  18. ^ "The Beachwood Reporter - Chicago Residents To Protest Lack Of Support For Those Suffering With Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". 26 September 2016. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  19. ^ "Severe ME left me in a world of pain and darkness. 26 years on, why is it still so poorly understood?". openDemocracy. 2016-12-19. Archived from the original on 2017-01-14. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  20. ^ Pendergrast, Tricia; Brown, Abigail; Sunnquist, Madison; Jantke, Rachel; Newton, Julia L.; Strand, Elin Bolle; Jason, Leonard A. (2016-12-01). "Housebound versus nonhousebound patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome". Chronic Illness. 12 (4): 292–307. doi:10.1177/1742395316644770. ISSN 1745-9206. PMC 5464362. PMID 27127189.
  21. ^ ""Protesters Demand Increased Funding or ME/CFS Research"". U.S. News & World Report.
  22. ^ "The story and stigma of a baffling illness: Jen Brea speaks at TEDSummit". TED Blog. 2016-06-27. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  23. ^ ""Jennifer Brea: What happens when you have a disease doctors can't diagnose"".
  24. ^ "Jennifer Bréa, Omar Wasow - Weddings". The New York Times. 2012-09-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-17.

External links[edit]