South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services is kicking off the first DeStig Cinema Series on Thursday with the romantic comedy, “Benny and Joon.” Health services, better known as the center, will be showing one free movie a month about mental illness, substance use and disabilities at the Homer Theater for the next four months. Head of the center, Jay Bechtol, said he hopes it will jumpstart conversations about stigmatized identities.
"People get uncomfortable talking about them," he said. "People get nervous talking about them. People think if you talk about them, somehow it demeans the people that have the illness or the issue."
But he says talking about these issues and identities normalizes them.
"If you are willing to acknowledge that it's something that happens to you, something that happens to your neighbor, your children, then you're much more willing to participate in the treatment of it," he said.
For each movie, the center will do a short presentation beforehand and facilitate a discussion afterward. Bechtol said he is particularly excited about “The Ringer,” a 2005 sports comedy film.
"It's about Johnny Knoxville trying to repay gambling debt by infiltrating the Special Olympics as a non-special Olympian pretending to be developmentally delayed," he said.
Bechtol said it’s the only movie they’re playing that includes actors with disabilities.
"It was supported by the Special Olympics," he said. "It really breaks down barriers of what people think about developmental disabilities."
Along with the “The Ringer” and “Benny and Joon," the center will also be screening “Lars and the Real Girl” and “Inside Out.”