Surfing documentary highlights mental health

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Mental illness is a struggle that millions face every day. That makes those who overcome their illness to achieve great things all the more inspirational. 

A still frame from “Kissed by God.”
Courtesy photo.

Andy Irons was one such individual. Despite a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder, Irons achieved world-class status as a professional surfer, cementing himself as one of the sport’s all-time greats. Although he met a tragic and premature end in 2010, dying at age 32 of a heart attack stemming from his drug use, Irons remains a testament to what mentally ill individuals can accomplish — and what their struggles can cost them. 

This weekend, Irons’ life is commemorated in the critically-acclaimed documentary film “Andy Irons: Kissed By God.” Set to screen 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, at the Panida Theater, “Kissed By God” is a special event in support of mental health advocacy organization NAMI Far North. A portion of the proceeds from the screening will support NAMI Far North’s programs supporting individuals and family members affected by mental illness. 

“The movie is a great unexpected story about the surfer Andy Irons and how his successes parallel with his struggle with bipolar,” said Justine Murray, the NAMI Far North member who worked to bring in the movie. “I knew nothing about the world of surfing prior to watching this documentary but was still able to relate to Andy Irons’ story and appreciate his impact on the surfing world. I wanted to bring this to the Panida because this documentary helps break the stigma of mental illness, it touches on the opioid crisis and is relevant to many issues facing people in our own community.”

Murray opened a conversation with Teton Gravity Research, a well-known organization that produced the film, to bring the movie to Sandpoint. Given that it has already shown films in town, the organization saw “Kissed by God” as a natural fit for the community. From there, the staff of the Panida Theater sorted out the rest of the arrangements. 

“I had talked to (executive director Patricia Walker) at the Panida Theater about it and she worked out all the details to bring film here,” Murray said.

After the screening, there will be a discussion with Human Connection counselors who work on programs like the North Idaho Crisis Hotline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist individuals who need immediate mental health assistance. Programs like that and others are invaluable in preventing suicide or other tragic outcomes. 

Get tickets for “Kissed By God” at La Chic Boutique, the business sponsor for the event, or at the box office before the show. They cost $12 for adults or $10 for students and seniors. 

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