Unrest (2017 film)

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Unrest 2017 poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJennifer Brea
Produced byJennifer Brea, Lindsey Dryden, Patricia E. Gillespie, Alysa Nahmias, Deborah Hoffmann
Written byJennifer Brea, Kim Roberts
Music byBear McCreary
CinematographySam Heesen, Christian Laursen
Edited byKim Roberts, Emiliano Battista
Release date
  • January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20) (Sundance)

Unrest is a 2017 documentary film produced and directed by Jennifer Brea.[1][2] The film tells the story of how Jennifer and her new husband faced an illness that struck Jennifer just before they married.


Jennifer Brea is a Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life, when she is struck down by a fever that leaves her bedridden. Months before her wedding, she becomes progressively more ill, eventually losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors tell her it's "all in her head", she goes online and finds a hidden world of millions confined to their homes and bedrooms by myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also commonly called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Unrest tells the story of Jennifer and her husband Omar Wasow, as newlyweds grappling with how to live in the face of a lifelong illness. In search of answers and initially bedbound, Jennifer sets off on a virtual voyage around the world, meeting four extraordinary ME patients in the US, UK, and Denmark. Their bedrooms connected by Skype and Facebook, these patients teach Jen how to make a life of meaning when everything changes.

Unrest is a first-person story of resilience in the face of life-altering loss, exploring how we treat people with illnesses we do not yet understand — how confronting the fragility of life teaches us its value and, ultimately, how we all have the need to find community and connection.[3]


The production of Unrest began when Brea picked up the camera to film her symptoms because she was being dismissed by doctors in the spring of 2012.[4]

Brea used a Skype teleprompter to conduct interviews, and eventually found a way to stream an on-set camera to her computer. Gradually, she built a global team. The whole process took four years. She was bedridden throughout much of the production of the film, conducting interviews on Skype and directing remotely with producers and crews around the world.[5] The film is a combination of professionally shot vérité, self-filmed iPhone videos, and interviews conducted via Skype.


The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on January 20.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] It was screened during the 2017 SXSW Film Festival in March. In fall of 2017, the film opened theatrically in the United States and United Kingdom.

The film aired in the United States as part of the Independent Lens series on the Public Broadcasting Service in January 2018.[16][17] It became available to view on Netflix on January 15, 2018.[18]


The film was well-received. The Los Angeles Times called the film, "sensitive and arresting rally cry for increased awareness about this disease, and an existential exploration of the meaning of life while battling a crippling chronic illness...remarkably intimate, deeply edifying and a stirring call to action."[19]

Unrest was shortlisted for the Academy Award for best documentary feature,[20] but was not one of the final five nominations.[21]



  1. ^ "unrest". Sundance. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  2. ^ "Unrest documents lives of ME patients". ParkRecord.com.
  3. ^ "unrest". www.sundance.org. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  4. ^ "Interview: Jennifer Brea Talks About Obstacles, Adjustments, and Inspiration". ProHealth.com.
  5. ^ Buder, Emily (January 23, 2017). "Jennifer Brea Filmed Her Sundance Premiere Without Leaving Bed — And it Saved Her Life". No Film School. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  6. ^ "2017 Sundance Film Festival: Competition And Next Lineup Announced". www.sundance.org. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  7. ^ "Sundance 2017 Women Directors: Meet Jennifer Brea - Unrest". womenandhollywood.com.
  8. ^ "'Unrest': Film Review - Sundance 2017". hollywoodreporter.com.
  9. ^ "Sundance Film Festival - Meet the Artist '17: Jennifer Brea".
  10. ^ Harvey, Dennis (January 24, 2017). "Sundance Film Review: 'Unrest'". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  11. ^ Means, Sean P. "Sundance review: 'Unrest'". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "'Unrest' Review: A Personal Look at Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, With Powerful Results — Sundance 2017".
  13. ^ "Entrepreneur Needed To Cure Anti-Initiative Disease".
  14. ^ "Snapshots from Sundance: Mark Hamill gets some lines, goldfish in a pool charm jurors".
  15. ^ "Sundance 2017: 'Unrest' Is An Emotional Look At Human Strength". January 23, 2017.
  16. ^ "Sundance: Medical Mystery Doc Unrest Nabbed by PBS (Exclusive)".
  17. ^ Morfoot, Addie (June 22, 2017). "PBS' Independent Lens Announces Season 16 Slate (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  18. ^ Brea, Jennifer (January 15, 2018). "The time is here! Unrest is now available on @Netflix!..." Twitter. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  19. ^ "Filmmaker documents crippling autoimmune disease in stirring 'Unrest'". Los Angeles Times. 2017-09-28. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  20. ^ Pedersen, Erik (2017-12-08). "Oscars: Documentary Feature Shortlist Cuts Field To 15". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  21. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (7 February 2018). "Oscar cheat sheet: The 5 nominees for Best Documentary Feature, explained". Vox. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  22. ^ "U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award For Editing".
  23. ^ "Audience Award For Best Documentary Feature".
  24. ^ "Nashville Film Festival Announces: 2017 Feature Award Winners - Nashville Film Festival".
  25. ^ ""City of Ghosts," "Unrest" take Sheffield Doc/Fest Awards". Retrieved August 15, 2017.

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