‘Heaven Is A Traffic Jam’ Director On Doc Subject Mindy Alper: “She’s The Most Human Of Us Humans”

“Uber drivers, they don’t understand,” she tells Deadline.
Stiefel filmed as some of the sculptures were put on display for an art show, an event Dr. Shoshanna attended.
“She's the most human of us humans,” observes Stiefel. “She’s the only interview subject that completely answered every question that I asked her without that 'governor' that we all have in our brains that wonders whether we're being smart and who's concerned about how we look or how we sound.”
Alper’s art has provided her a substitute for words. The filmmaking team animated a number of her line drawings, which are startling for their evocation of phobias and fearsome, unsympathetic adults.
I just kept plugging forward because I found her incredibly compelling and just went with that.”” /> “I never asked myself whether anybody else would be interested. I loved her art,” he says. “I was intrigued by Mindy.
She copes with these challenges with touching humor and honesty.
From her instructor, though, she’s at ease receiving feedback.
For Alper, art has long offered a refuge from a world that often didn’t understand her. The director got to know Alper through an art program taught by Tom Wudl, a class Stiefel’s wife also attended.
Artist Mindy Alper perceives the world differently from ordinary people.
“Frank asks questions in such a way that you have no choice but to tell him the truth,” she explains. “It's some kind of diabolical gift he has.”
“I have a lot of doubt because a lot of people feel free to tell me what they think and it's not always good.” “I think that's hard still,” she concedes.
The film recently earned a nomination for Best Short from the IDA Awards, and won audience and jury awards at both the Full Frame Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival. It opens with Alper contentedly biding time in bumper-to-bumper congestion. In fact, Heaven Is a Traffic Jam On The 405 is the title of a short documentary about Alper directed by Frank Stiefel.
I appreciate it,” she tells Deadline. “I’m lucky to have a teacher still who can say, 'You've done better drawings than that.' He's terrific.
Alper throws the praise back on Stiefel.
“[My] nightmare is Costco. I become very anxious,” she says in the film.
Despite her obvious talent, Alper experiences anxiety when her works are exhibited, worrying they will be rejected.
The Mindy who emerges from Stiefel’s film is a person of unusual candor who talks openly about her long struggle with mental illness, sharing with the camera her impressive regimen of medication. She displays what might be called neurological differences, especially sensitivity to noise and visual stimuli.
“I spend that time talking to myself out loud about whatever it is going on,” she says, “Things that I don't usually say to people, especially politics.”
Alper also works in papier mâché to create large-scale portraits of important people in her life, including Stiefel himself, her art mentor Wudl, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Shoshanna.
I always loved drawing.” “I was apparently doing [art] since I could hold something in my hand to draw,” she says. “I was so fortunate to have a mom who put me in art class at four or five.
But Stiefel says he wasn’t concerned how Heaven Is a Traffic Jam On The 405 would be received. The reason? His confidence in his main character’s appeal. Making any piece of art, including a short documentary, exposes the maker to the judgment of an audience.
“I remember times when I couldn't speak for quite a long time and using drawings to communicate,” she recalls.
To Alper, it’s a little bit of bliss. To most Angelenos, it’s maddening. Where most of us talk about years, she speaks of “trips around the sun.” Another example would be sitting in traffic on an LA freeway. Take the marking of time, for instance.
Rushmore, I can't imagine a bigger monument to a person,’” Stiefel remembers. “I said to her psychiatrist when she saw [the sculpture] at the gallery, 'Other than Mt.