Beyond Laughter & Tears - The PBA Film Project

Crying, Laughing and Living with PBA

Laughing when you’re happy or crying when you’re sad – may seem natural. But what if you had no control? What if you laughed when you knew nothing was funny or cried when you're not really sad or had no reason to cry? This is a reality for nearly 2 million Americans, and the impetus behind BEYOND LAUGHTER & TEARS, an inspiring documentary that captures the obstacles and triumphs of individuals impacted by PseudoBulbar Affect (PBA), a neurologic condition marked by uncontrollable outbursts of laughing and/or crying in people with brain injuries or certain neurologic conditions like stroke or Alzheimer’s.

BEYOND LAUGHTER & TEARS spotlights six patients living with PBA and the following neurologic conditions: stroke; traumatic brain injury (TBI); multiple sclerosis (MS); and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), as well as their friends, families and caregivers.

Dyanna Hurley, a once competitive ballroom dancer and former nurse, suffered a stroke several years ago which led to the loss of mobility on her right side as well as symptoms of unprovoked and uncontrollable bouts of crying. Initially diagnosed with depression, Dyanna sets out to better understand the true cause behind her crying episodes and whether she may have PBA.

A self-described “hard-core” soldier, Christine Jones suffered a TBI after a near fatal car accident on her way home from deploying troops, ending her military career. Due to her TBI, Christine also suffers from PBA. Christine is still adjusting to her new normal but maintains a positive outlook for what the future holds for her and her family.

Scott Lotan, a single father of two, was diagnosed with MS in 2001 and later diagnosed with PBA. Scott experiences uncontrollable bouts of overwhelming laughter. As a single parent living with MS and PBA, Scott just wants the best for his kids while living a meaningful life he can be proud of.

In 2006, Bobby Leech started to exhibit symptoms of PBA shortly after an incident at work in which a 60-pound marble-topped vanity collapsed on his head causing a TBI. Bobby is trying to come to terms with the reality of discontinuing his loved profession as a commercial truck driver while trying to overcome the emotional aspects of PBA.

The youngest cast member to be featured in the film is Kirk Johnson, who was well on his way to becoming a pilot until he suffered a stroke in 2010 that landed him in a coma for four months. In addition to dealing with the after effects of his stroke, Kirk has PBA. Kirk sheds light on the challenges and limitations his stroke and PBA have had on his life, but continues to work towards recovery and still dreams of being a pilot.

The musically talented Parsons family experienced devastating news when husband and father, Douglas Parsons, was diagnosed with FTD, a form of dementia. Shortly after his diagnosis, Douglas started to experience PBA symptoms, crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Before his PBA diagnosis, Douglas’ episodes caused feelings of confusion and helplessness for those around him. Douglas’ family, Linda, Laura, and Steve, demonstrate in this film the importance of a family’s unconditional love and support when dealing with the devastating nature of FTD.

BEYOND LAUGHTER & TEARS is both an emotional and uplifting film about fate’s unexpected path and how these families support one another in an unsteady journey of both laughter and tears.

The film is directed by award winning filmmakers Doug Blush (Of Two Minds, The Hunting Ground, 20 Feet from Stardom, The Invisible War, These Amazing Shadows, Superheroes, Outrage) and Lisa Klein (Of Two Minds, What a Ball, Cult Culture: The Poseidon Adventure); and produced by award-winning filmmaker, Julian Cautherley (The Crash Reel, The Beautiful Game, The Lion’s Mouth Opens).

Continue to visit for film updates, behind-the-scenes content and to learn about ways you can help make a positive impact in the lives of people with PBA.

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