Dialogues with Madwomen

Dialogues with Madwomen

Allie Light


»I was always so afraid that someone would ask me where I was when JFK was shot and I would have to say I was in a mental institution.«
– Allie Light

In Dialogues with Madwomen, seven women lay bare their experiences with manic depression, multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia but also with creativity and recovery. Director Allie Light also relates of her depression and her time in a psychiatric institution.
After being raped, R.B. dropped out and became homeless. Hannah, a manic-depressive, firmly believes that she – along with Bob Dylan – has been chosen to save the world. Dee Dee methodically records everything taught by the Catholic Church that was good for her … and that drove her to self-mutilation. Mairi formed 25 different personalities as their result of the abuse she was made to suffer. Karen has been the victim of racism and marginalisation all her life.
As the camera whirs, the women open up: they talk with humour and with passion. There are no talking-head experts to classify and relativise things. By falling back on home videos, archive material and re-enactments, Allie Light draws a complex and moving portrait of women whose mental illness goes hand in hand with inspiring energy and creativity.
R.B. makes music, Hannah is an artist, Dee Dee became lesbian and studied homeopathy. Mairi has reached a point where she no longer needs to split off into further personalities. Yet, yet. Not all the protagonists succeed. At the end of the film, we discover that shortly after her interview Karen was raped and murdered.

Awards for ›Dialogues with Madwomen‹
Emmy Award for Outstanding Interview Program, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 1995 | Freedom of Expression Award, Sundance Film Festival 1994 | Award Winner, HeSCA Media Awards 1994 | Special Jury Award, National Educational Film and Video, 1994

Film programme An Excess of Order

Director / Script

Allie Light

Cinematography / Editing / Production

Irving Saraf


Larry Seymour


Women Make Movies (WMM)



Allie Light

Director, author and producer Allie light won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature – The Shadow of the Stars – in 1991. She lives and works in San Francisco and has taught film at the City College of San Francisco and on the Women Studies Program at San Francisco State University. In 1993, her biography written by Cathleen Rountree was published under the title of On Women Turning 50, Celebrating Mid-Life Discoveries. She self-published The Glittering Cave, a volume of poetry, and edited an anthology entitled Poetry from Violence. Ms Light is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Films by Allie light (Selection)
Empress Hotel 2009 | The Sermons of Sister Jane 2006 | An Iraqi Lullaby for Children Who Are about to Die 2004 | Blind Spot: Murder by Women 2000 | Rachel’s Daughters 1997 | In the Shadow of the Stars 1991 | Visions of Paradise 1982 | Mitsuye and Nellie 1981