It's tough not to cry along with Mandeep as he reveals how lonely he is in the powerful documentary short 'Mandeep,' an official Toronto Film Festival selection. The 23-year-old Vancouverite yearns for friends to hang out with, but his frequent involuntary outbursts of profanity and destruction tend to alienate those around him.

Mandeep suffers from severe Tourette Syndrome, an oft-misunderstood neurological condition characterized by tics – involuntary sudden movements and vocalizations. In Mandeep's case, he frequently shouts racial slurs, destroys things like computers and sinks, and burns himself with cigarettes.

Toronto-based photographer Darrin Klimek spent four days with Mandeep and captured a day in the life of the lonely young man in the moving 5-minute short. The doc was originally part of an awareness campaign for the Tourette Foundation of Canada, and marks Klimek's first foray into filmmaking. We caught up with him to learn more about Mandeep's story. [Ed. note: check back after September 19 to see the whole film; we'll be posting it after TIFF.]


'Mandeep' Trailer
-- Darrin Klimek, Vimeo

What struck you most personally about Mandeep?
His loneliness. He spends a lot of time alone. Going out is very difficult for him. He meets a lot of people. Initially those people will say yeah, let's hang out, let's be friends, but they find his condition just a bit too much to deal with on an ongoing basis. Most of those people will stop calling him or will end their relationship or friendship with him. It's tough.

Does he know other people with Tourette's who he hangs out with?
He does. His best friend has Tourette's, but he lives in Edmonton. So they don't get to hang out a lot. They talk on the phone all the time. He does go to Edmonton once in a while and his friend does come down to Vancouver but for Mandeep to go to Edmonton is a big deal. He'll either take the bus or a plane and it's a really tough trip for him because he is freaking out the whole time. When he's in an enclosed space with people he gets nervous and his tics get a lot worse. He finds it very stressful and people around him are very uncomfortable, and he knows that, so it's not easy for him to travel.

Did he go to public school?
He did. He's actually attending a community college right now, taking a visual arts program. The problem is he has this tic where he wants to hit things and destroy things and he's gone through about four computers in the time I've known him. He'll be working at his computer doing some kind of project for school and he'll destroy his laptop. So he can't finish and he falls behind, and obviously his teachers get frustrated. He has a hard time concentrating because he's always being interrupted by tics when he's doing something.

I noticed he has some tattoos. How was he able to stay still long enough for that to happen?
I asked him that too, just because of all those cigarette burns as well. Apparently he had to go back quite a few times because the tattoo artist would tell him you've got too many fresh burns here, I can't work on these right now. The tattoo artist seemed like a nice, patient guy. He was this big burly biker guy -- the type of guy who could totally handle Mandeep and all of his tics and swearing and being grabbed and touched. I think he was patient enough to get that tattoo on there, little by little.

You mentioned that the original cut had interviews with family and friends. What types of things were they saying?
The interesting thing about the interview with his mom was that they're Indian, and she said that in her culture swearing is not permitted. So with Mandeep swearing all of the time, she has a really difficult time with it. Especially because it's the worst of the worst, like racial slurs, and it's difficult for that community to accept that he's got Tourette's. She was very emotional during the interview, you could tell that it's really taken its toll on her. She said it's difficult to live with this every day. Because he does scream a lot. He makes a lot of noise and he destroys things. He's always destroying taps and walls so I guess it's hard financially to replace a lot of things.

What are you hoping audiences will take away from the film?
What I hope is that people will have a little more tolerance for people with Tourette's and other disabilities that disturb the peace, so to speak. I think it would take the stress off people with Tourette's a lot if they knew that people understood what Tourette's was and why they were doing it.

'Mandeep' is screening as part of Short Cuts Canada -- Programme 4. See the TIFF website for more details.