When seemingly happy, travel-infatuated CJ Twomey violently ended his own life at age 20, his family was plunged into unrelenting grief and guilt. In a moment of desperate inspiration, his mother Hallie put out an open call on Facebook, looking only for a handful of travelers who might help fulfill her son's wish to see the world by scattering some of his ashes in a place of beauty or special meaning.
Twenty-one thousand strangers liked the Facebook page, and one thousand volunteers have since taken CJ to over one hundred countries. While crisscrossing the globe, his ashes and his family’s story have given rise to a social media phenomenon — a worldwide community — that has congregated in solidarity and empathy in dealing with a still heavily stigmatized and misunderstood form of mental illness.
Aggregating hundreds of clips chronicling personal ash-scattering pilgrimages worldwide, combined with intimate interviews and vérité filmmaking, Hallie’s story — one that has cross-pollinated and traveled so organically, resonantly, inspirationally — shows us that social media can act as a connector and a vehicle for empathy, as opposed to the more toxic aspects of social media interaction we're currently witnessing. Her story further illustrates how there can be positive action grown from suicide, and that even if it isn't reliably predictable, it just may in some cases be preventable.
Scattering CJ had its World Premiere at the Camden International Film Festival in September 2019 and will continue to screen and raise awareness for suicide prevention in communities around the world.