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Scattering CJ 2022


Distributed by New Day Films, 350 North Water Street Unit 1-12, Newburgh, NY 12550; 888-367-9154
Produced by Andrea Kalin and David Lobatto
Directed by Andrea Kalin
Streaming, 63 mins

College - General Adult
Communication; Health Sciences; Mental Health

Date Entered: 01/25/2023

Reviewed by Lonnie Frazier, Community Outreach Coordinator, Making Change Media

CJ Twomey was a twenty-year-old man from a small town in New England who had big plans for his life and worked hard to make those plans a reality. In a moment of despair and for reasons unclear, CJ took his own life. His family was left heartbroken and in disbelief at what seemed to have been an impulsive act. How does a family heal after such a loss, and what meaning can be found in the aftermath of the suicide of a loved one? The documentary film Scattering CJ seeks to answer these questions.

Largely narrated by CJ’s mother, Hallie Twomey, Scattering CJ is a departure from films about mental health and suicide in that it doesn’t explore those topics in-depth, choosing instead to primarily focus on the possibility for kindness to be found in a place one might not expect: social media. Hallie Twomey wanted to help her son fulfill his goal of traveling the world and decided to post a simple request on Facebook, would anyone be willing to take some of CJ’s ashes with them on a trip and scatter them so that he might have the opportunity to visit places he hadn’t seen in life? The response from the post was immediate and overwhelming. At first people from the United States offered to help, but soon the request was seen by people all over the world and Hallie was amazed to learn that some people who responded planned their trips to include a scattering ceremony. CJ’s ashes have been scattered in more than 750 locations worldwide and have traveled into space aboard a private rocket.

CJ's story goes beyond this communal effort to help a family to heal. For some it is a cautionary tale, and a 'reminder to get help'. Clips of participants scattering CJ’s ashes in a wide variety of locations are intercut with intimate interviews from people who were helped by CJ’s tragic but relatable story. The camaraderie and sense of community formed by the people who decided to reach out to Hallie Twomey imbues the viewer with a sense of hope.

Scattering CJ isn’t just about the unimaginable loss the Twomey’s experienced; it’s about social media's potential as a positive force, and the healing that comes from a sense of community and a shared humanity.

Audience Award, Dunedin International Film Festival; Pioneer Award for Excellence in Leadership & Public Service, Richmond International Film Festival; Award for Excellence, Women Filmmakers, Impact DOCS; Award for Excellence, Contemporary Issues Awareness Raising, Impact DOCS; Award of Excellence Documentary Feature, Impact DOCs Awards; Award of Excellence, Films for Social Change, Accolade Global Film Competition; Award of Excellence Documentary Feature, Accolade Awards

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.