In her black hoodie with scraped-back hair, winking to her cameraphone and giving a thumbs up, Lotje Sodderland looks like any young woman making a video of herself to send to a friend. But underneath the hoodie is a blood-caked scar from brain surgery. Sodderland is lucky to be alive, having suffered a massive stroke which left her unable to speak, read, write and perform even simple tasks.
This footage, which she captured just weeks after waking up from an induced coma, has become part of My Beautiful Broken Brain, a film by Sodderland and Sophie Robinson, which premieres tomorrow on Netflix. The extraordinary documentary takes you on a journey inside Sodderland's mind, using special effects to recreate the distorted vision she experienced as a side-effect of the stroke and the pulsating colours and strange visuals that became her new normal.
Films to watch in 2016
Films to watch in 2016
1/30 Hail, Caesar - 5 February
The Coen brothers' latest film might be their most ambitious yet. Telling the story of a Hollywood fixer struggling to keep A-listers in line, it has a movie within a movie, an amazing cast, and, judging by the first trailer, some luxurious visuals
2/30 Deadpool - 12 February
Comic book superhero movies have been getting slowly more self-referential and self-parodic lately, and Deadpool looks to be taking itself even less seriously than Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man. It looks as though fans will finally be getting the comic book-faithful, foul-mouthed version of the character they wanted, but it remains to be seen whether Deadpool will actually be funny, or just descend into toilet humour
3/30 Zoolander No. 2 - 12 February
Zoolander's return was derailed somewhat by backlash over a trans/gender fluid character played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The long-awaited sequel will no doubt do well at the box office, but I'm not sure if the fashion industry is as fertile for satire now as it was in 2001, and the trailer relies too heavily on honouring old gags rather than creating new ones
4/30 Knight of Cups - 4 March
A new film from Terrence Malick should have been a huge cause for celebration, but Knight of Cups has been swimming in post-Cannes purgatory for months now. In March it will finally get a theatrical release. Starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman, it sees a man return home from New York and get sucked into the hollow hedonism of LA, fighting to extricate himself from it
5/30 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - 4 March
Based on journalist Kim Barker’s 2011 memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this dark comedy sees Tina Fey play a foreign correspondent reporting in the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom, where she develops a weird relationship with a fellow journalist played by Martin Freeman
6/30 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - 18 March
The wind seems to have gone out of the sails of the Man of Steel series in spite of the addition of a new Batman, and there's a more palpable anticipation for Suicide Squad (which arrives later in the year)
7/30 Everybody Wants Some - 15 April
Coming off the back of multi-Oscar winner Boyhood, this Richard Linklater film looks a lot like Dazed and Confused if it was set in the 80s, albeit pitched more towards comedy
8/30 The Jungle Book - 15 April
Disney is trampling on its own hallowed ground with this live action remake. Elf and Iron Man director Jon Favreau is a fairly safe pair of hands though, and Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito and Bill Murray are all on board
9/30 Money Monster - 13 May
'Financial TV personality Lee Gates, who offers up stock advice on his hit show "Money Monster," is held hostage by a viewer, Kyle Budwell, who lost all of his money following a bad tip from Lee during his show'
10/30 Snowden - 13 May
Platoon director Oliver Stone takes on a very important and timely story. But can he make it entertaining the way The Big Short did with the financial crisis?
11/30 X-Men Apocalypse - 27 May
2016 will see a ninth X-Men film. Ninth. Every cast member you would expect will be back to collect their paychecks, which might require a crane
12/30 Finding Dory - 17 June
The Finding Nemo sequel will focus on Ellen DeGeneres' forgetful blue tang fish. It's expected to have an anti-SeaWorld message, which should make it strike a chord with parents as well as children
13/30 Independence Day: Resurgence - 24 June
Will Smith isn't in it. Moving on
14/30 The BFG - 1 July
There's still a lot of love for Roald Dahl's stories, and this one is being adapted by none other than Steven Spielberg. There hasn't been a huge amount of buzz around it but it's early days, and Mark Rylance is an interesting casting for the titular Big Friendly Giant
15/30 La La Land - 15 July
There's a lot of expectation on director Damien Chazelle's shoulders following the success of Whiplash, one of the smallest films ever to have been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. La La Land will certainly be different, a musical comedy-drama about a young pianist and an actor played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone respectively
16/30 Ghostbusters - 15 July
This is something of a question mark. On one hand, it's landed a cast of incredibly funny actresses, but on the other, another reboot? Really? There's also thought to be a very meta all-male version in the works from the creators of Jump Street, set in the same universe as Men In Black no less
17/30 Star Trek Beyond - 22 July
If you thought Abrams' Star Trek films were bad, feast your eyes on the trailer for the next one from the director of the Fast & Furious franchise. Expect major face-palming from Trekkies in July. Hopefully the new TV show will offer something a bit less action-orientated and a bit more cerebral
18/30 Untitled fifth Bourne film - 29 July
The Bourne series completely went off the boil with Jeremy Renner as its lead, but now both Matt Damon and original director Paul Greengrass are back to steady the ship. This might well be Jason Bourne's last outing, so I hope they send him off in style
19/30 Suicide Squad - 5 August
Harley Quinn was one of the most popular Halloween costumes this year, despite the holiday falling months before the release of the film she's in. That says a lot about the hype over this comic book adaptation, which revels in the villains rather than the heroes for once and sees Jared Leto step into Heath Ledger's size 58 boots as the new Joker
20/30 Sully - 9 September
Friendly-looking dad named Chesley Sullenberger who saves a plane load of people? Tom Hanks is your guy. Clint Eastwood will direct this biopic, about an airline captain who was hailed as a national hero in the US after successfully executing an emergency water landing on the Hudson River off Manhattan
21/30 Bridget Jones’s Baby - 16 September
It's 2015 and Bridget is now pouring her soul into an iPad rather than a diary. This sequel might perfectly skewer the frustration of growing up in an increasingly youth-orientated world, or it might just serve to tarnish the originals like with Sex and the City 2
22/30 The Magnificent Seven - 23 September
I'm not convinced there's the demand for Westerns that Hollywood seems to think there is. We'll find out in September with Antoine Fuqua's remake of 1960's The Magnificent Seven. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke are among the gang
23/30 Masterminds - 30 September
Based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery in North Carolina, this comedy comes from the man behind Napoleon Dynamite. Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis form a strong cast, but there are no trailers to go on yet
24/30 The Girl on the Train - 7 October
That book everyone was reading on the commute inevitably makes it cinemas in October, with Emily Blunt playing Rachel Watson, an alcoholic whose husband left her for his mistress, and who witnesses a murder and starts to realize that she may have been involved in the crime
25/30 Doctor Strange - 4 November
Doctor Strange might not have been the most obvious character to take to the big screen, but by this point Marvel could make $1billion at the box office from a comic an exec once scrawled on a piece of toilet paper
26/30 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - 18 November
J.K. Rowling makes her screenwriting debut adapting her own book here, with a film that takes place in the Harry Potter universe but is well removed from Hogwarts
27/30 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - 16 December
Disney is releasing a Star Wars movie every year between now and 2020. This first standalone 'anthology' film centres on a Death Star heist, but may prove to just be filler while Star Wars 8 is in production
28/30 Passengers - 21 December
'A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 60 years early. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he eventually decides to wake up a second passenger'
29/30 Jumanji - 25 December
Is nothing sacred? Everyone is so pissed about this remake of the Robin Williams cult hit that it will be a miracle if it escapes a critical drubbing
30/30 Silence - sometime in 2016
Martin Scorsese's next film doesn't have a mafioso or corrupt banker in sight. Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield star, playing two Jesuit Portuguese Catholic priests who face violent persecution when they travel to Japan to seek out their mentor and spread the teachings of Christianity
"I remember it just felt like I was on the moon and looking down on everything," she tells me by phone, having just landed back in London after showing the film at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. "It wasn't a logical reality, it was another dimension. I'd lost the ability to retain information so I wanted to record this new and terrifying place I'd found myself in."
In 2011, Soderland, then 34 and working as a documentary producer, woke up in the early hours of the morning in her flat in east London with an excruciating headache. She was suffering a massive brain haemorrhage due to a rare developmental malformation of the blood vessels in her brain. She managed to get herself dressed and stumbled to a nearby hotel, before blacking out completely. She woke up in hospital two days later, and once she had her belongings returned to her, found herself reaching for her iPhone and – once someone had shown her how to use it again – pressing record
Although initially Sodderland was using her phone videos to help her remember all the meetings with doctors, she realised that she also wanted to document what was happening to her. "Having lost the ability to create a linear narrative it became really important to me to tell this story," she says. "But I knew that I'd need some help."
Still unable to speak coherently, Sodderland wanted to get in touch with Sophie Robinson, a documentary film-maker she had met once through work, but had forgotten her name and had no way of articulating who she was. She drew her brother a picture of a TV and a horizon – because she remembered that Robinson had made a documentary for the BBC series – and after "a few hours" he figured it out.
"I went to meet her the day after she got out of hospital," says Robinson. "We started filming that day and she was still very confused and there was a big part of me that was wary because I knew she was very vulnerable and had to concentrate on recovery. But from that first interview she did on camera, my hairs stood up on my neck."
Sodderland saw parallels between the almost hallucinatory things she was experiencing and David Lynch films. Once a teenage Twin Peaks fan, Sodderland started making small video diaries for the director for fun, not thinking that he'd ever see them. "I just thought he'd understand," she says. "He knows about the non-linear narratives and the subtle relationship between the mundane and the surreal." Midway through filming, Robinson contacted Lynch's agent to try and show him one of these videos and much to their surprise he sent them an email back. "It was amazing, it was all in capital letters with lots of dots," remembers Robinson. He then invited Sodderland to a video conference he was doing and when she went to LA on holiday Lynch invited her over for coffee. He subsequently became an executive producer on the film, "which definitely didn't hurt, having his name on your poster" notes Robinson.
Sodderland describes the process of making My Beautiful Broken Brain as essential to her recovery. "Things were all deconstructed and disconnected and didn't make sense, so making the film was a way to relearn how to tell a story." Pretending she was an actor, playing a character in a film, also helped give her distance from the more distressing things she went through in hospital.
Sodderland still struggles to read and write and has had to accept the differences in her new life. "My life now is very simple, it's very focused, but actually now I've come to terms with that, I can appreciate the beauty of it." She has a new partner, a new job as a film-maker and cinematographer and is excited for the future. As well as the new series of Twin Peaks.
'My Beautiful Broken Brain' is released on Netflix tomorrow
Life lines: Using phones to heal
Niamh Malone was a clinical nurse specialist in stroke rehabilitation for more than a decade. Three years ago she suffered a stroke herself. As part of her recovery she designed a motivational psychological programme and she has now developed the app "Recovery After a Brain Injury" to help people faced with similar challenges.
In 2013, Lorna Smalley was rushed to hospital with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. She lost two years of her memory, forgetting her own daughter and even asking whether she herself was Chinese. She has now recovered, but requires dozens of daily iPhone reminders to compensate for her unreliable short-term memory.
David Festenstein, who has written a blog about his recovery from a stroke, has suggested that the video and audio recording capabilities on our smartphones can play a vital role in stroke recovery. By making videos and telling the story of his stroke, David found that he was able to visualise the physiological progress he had made and still needed to make.Reuse content