A Journey of Healing and Redemption
About Face Synopsis

A Glimpse Into Our Story

On a chilly Alaskan summer night in 1980, a family camping trip turned into a tragedy when 10-month old Gwendellin Bradshaw’s mentally distraught mother threw her on the campfire. Given a 50-50 chance of surviving, Gwen managed to recover and live to be an adult. 24 years later, she is learning how to cope with her physical and psychological scars and believes that finding her mother is central to her own healing. Her journey is an emotional path that leads her to discover her own beauty and purpose in life, providing inspiration to us all to find compassion for those struggling with mental illness.

Our story begins at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute just after Gwen has attempted suicide in the peak of Alaska’s dark winter in 2004. She had managed to get through the public school system without a single person acknowledging her deep mental trauma, even with her disfiguring physical scars. Despite her resilience and survival skills, Gwen’s emotional crash finally happens when she has left home for college on a musical scholarship. The demons she has suppressed for so long come to light and she is immediately labeled as paranoid schizophrenic, bi-polar and manic-depressive. Without addressing her childhood trauma and the ways it may have affected her emotionally, the system’s answer is simply to medicate her.

Gwen wants more for herself and she takes brave steps towards understanding the mental illness that plagued her estranged mother and is now apparently haunting her. Alone, she sets out on a journey seeking healing, redemption, forgiveness and understanding. Her mission is to find the mother who once placed her on a campfire. Her spiritual adventure takes her into mental hospitals and homeless shelters, across the country to North Carolina to a conference for burn survivors, Indiana, Minnesota and Vermont. Along the way, she often retreats into the depths of depression and despair as she searches for answers and self-growth.

Ultimately, Gwen does find her mother. Their reunion is dramatic, miraculous, tearful and laced with betrayal. Through this entire experience, she is able to separate herself from what happened to her as a baby and learn to create relationships, love, music and positive direction in her life.

Gwen’s ‘hero’s journey’ is filled with setbacks, surprises and heartfelt moments of insight. Sometimes humorous and always poignant, this intimate portrait follows her for five riveting years and provokes thought about the personal demons of mental illness and the potential healing that can come through hope, tenacity and love.