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Scattering CJ
63-minutes
When a heart broken mom asked the world to help honor the memory of her beloved son, the loss of one became the journey of many.
Screening days and times
  • Saturday: Block 2 – 11:10am
  • Sunday: Block 2 – 11:00am

Scattering CJ

  • GroupCreated with Sketch. Filmmaker will be in attendance
Filmmakers
Running Time
Feature Film
63 minutes
Genres
Documentary

Scattering CJ

SCATTERING CJ is the story of broken-hearted mom Hallie Twomey’s mission to do one final, amazing thing for her elder son CJ following his suicide. She put a singular call out to the world on Facebook: a request to honor her son’s memory and love of travel by helping scatter his ashes in as many places of beauty and meaning as possible. That call launched an initiative called Scattering CJ.

Hallie’s request resonated beyond her wildest dreams. It galvanized a global community via social media that would scatter CJ’s ashes in thousands of different locations, creating a vast archive of stunning imagery and moving testimony. But it would cause thousands more—many affected by suicide or mental illness—to come together online to support each other and encourage Hallie to become a community leader in the fight to raise awareness and end the silence and stigma that has contributed to escalating rates of suicide year after year.

Employing hundreds of clips chronicling ash-scattering pilgrimages worldwide, combined with intimate interviews and vérité filmmaking, Scattering CJ explores the devastating effects of suicide as well as the extraordinary generosity of strangers and one troubled family’s attempt to find peace.

Filmmaker Notes:

Hallie taught me what resilience looks like — about what it means to summon the courage to get up from the depths of sadness and face each next day. She trusted us to chronicle her family’s story during a period of unimaginable loss and great change in their lives, and we never took that trust lightly.

Without hesitation, they embraced the documentary process, allowing our cameras to become an ever-present part of their lives. We were given access to their day-to-day moments, like accompanying CJ’s younger brother Connor to the welding shop, or taking an early-morning drive with John to work before spending many hours with Hallie at home, talking and packing ashes at her dining room table.

What we witnessed is a mother on a mission. And it soon became clear that Hallie’s posts describing her grief and guilt in brutally honest terms had struck a chord that resounded far and wide. She was inundated with heartfelt messages of condolence and thanks, both for sharing her pain and for giving others the strength to do so themselves. The Scattering CJ project took off before our eyes, and soon CJ’s ashes were traveling the globe, from that dining room table in Auburn, Maine to hundreds of destinations the world over.

At the outset of our filming, we asked ourselves if participating in the documentary process would become the lasting testimonial to her son that Hallie craved. Despite all the good that had been wrought from the tragedy for so many others and over such distances, would she ever be able to find her own peace?

The questions we posed defied easy answers. They still do.

It’s been nine years since CJ passed and over four years since we began our own journey alongside the family. Over this time, it’s been a privilege to get to know the Twomeys, to meet some of the “scatterers” and even end up working with one of them. Australian graphic designer Kelly Vella not only took CJ’s ashes to Fiji with an entourage of extended family, but also ended up generously donating her time and talents to a fruitful, long-distance collaboration; Kelly designed a closing graphic for the film that brilliantly illuminates the 1,000-plus destinations where CJ has been scattered. Fittingly, like the scattering project itself, the film was also enriched by the kindness and gifts of strangers.

Collectively, our dedicated team aimed to make a film that coaxes out more of humanity’s innate goodness, and adds strength to the purpose and voice of a heartbroken mom determined to prevent others from following in her son’s footsteps. Ultimately, Scattering CJ might reveal a truth to others that we at Spark Media see more deeply than before we embarked on this journey: from the deepest loss can emerge the brightest of life.

— Andrea Kalin

Film details
Subtitles
None
More information
Festival screenings
Year(s) screened
  • 2019
Screening days and times
  • Saturday: Block 2 – 11:10am
  • Sunday: Block 2 – 11:00am
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