The Impact of Migraine Told in Film

Photophobia, aura and anxiety about the next attack

How do you convey the realities of living with migraine to someone who has never experienced one? For our 3rd Annual Migraine Short Film Contest, we asked members of our community to bring their realities to life in a short film, and we were blown away by the number of entries and the variety of topics and themes each filmmaker managed to capture.

Each month, the American Migraine Foundation will highlight these submissions in order to shed light on the true impact of the disease, and to educate others about the complexities of migraine. Read on to learn more about three of these impactful films from our contest, and for a discussion of the themes covered in each film.

“Reaching Out in the Dark”

Leah Galant’s film features her and her cousin Louis, who have more in common than they thought. When Leah was 19, she started seeing static in her vision and learned that she had persistent migraine with aura. At a family reunion a few years later, Leah realizes that she and Louis both have migraine. What follows is a story of empathy and support.

“Reaching Out in the Dark” highlights that migraine is hereditary and that family members can be a source of support for each other. This article discusses the importance of knowing your family history and shares three ways families can work together to manage migraine. The film also features Leah’s migraine aura and she discusses her symptoms, including starbursts and afterimages. If any of those symptoms sound familiar, this piece from our resource library provides a breakdown of potential diagnoses and walks readers through the phases of aura.

“Party of One”

This film begins as the subject is about to enter his own surprise birthday party. He imagines the party, complete with bright lights, singing and potential food triggers. The film showcases how living with migraine impacts almost every decision, and it will speak to anyone who has ever had to miss a social function or family gathering.

“Party of One” is a powerful portrayal of how living with migraine impacts every single decision. Migraine is more than a headache; the symptoms can appear on non-headache days and in between attacks, known as the interictal phase.  One of the most common interictal symptoms is anxiety, and the fear of attack can linger on non-headache days. Read this article to learn more about interictal symptoms and how some members of our community use them to manage their migraine.

“Sun Don’t Shine”

Zaire Love’s film features Ronald, a natural athlete who loves football and will do anything it takes to succeed. Nothing stands in his way except the sun, which triggers severe migraine attacks that debilitate him. Ronald demonstrates the resilience of people living with migraine.

Ronald lives with photophobia, which refers to an abnormal and extreme sensitivity to light. It’s a common symptom of migraine and both natural and fluorescent lights can trigger a migraine attack. To avoid the sun, Ronald runs his drills and works out in the dark. This article from our resource library explains photophobia and offers suggestions for limiting your exposure and building up your tolerance to light.

Anxiety, photophobia and aura are just a few of the realities of life with migraine. Everyone’s migraine story is different, and we’re honored that so many members shared their stories with us. Next month, we will highlight additional films and themes from our contest. In the meantime, you can watch the finalists here on YouTube, and learn more about migraine in our doctor-verified resource library.