Cinematographer Gerardo Puglia and directors Todd and Jedd Wider discuss combining film and digital capture while making their stark, haunting documentary.
God Knows Where I Am is a study of society’s failure to care for the mentally ill, as well as an experimental art film that explores the independent spirit of Linda Bishop, a middle-aged woman whose bipolar/schizophrenic disorder and desire for freedom led her to starve herself to death in an abandoned farmhouse in New Hampshire. To help craft an original approach to this difficult and complex subject, veteran and award-winning documentary producers and first-time directors Todd and Jedd Wider engaged their longtime friend, cinematographer Gerardo Puglia.
The Widers worked on the documentary for four years from concept to release, and Puglia dedicated two years, on and off, to shooting in the actual location where Bishop lived her last four months during a freezing New Hampshire winter, eating only apples stealthily picked from an old orchard and writing in a journal. In the documentary, actress Lori Singer gives voice to Bishop’s writing, which contrasts exquisite details about the natural world outside with the growing delusion that she would be rescued by a man she believed was her husband.
The resulting documentary received the American Cinematographer Award for Best Cinematography at this year’s Salem Film Fest. Shortly after the festival, the cinematographer and co-directors spoke with AC about their approach to the complex material.