The Friends of the Semel Institute for 
Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA

Frank Stiefel’s Academy Award-winning short subject documentary film, Heaven Is a Traffic Jam On the 405, takes its title from its protagonist’s unusual description of bliss. The 57-year-old artist, Mindy Alper, perceives her environment differently than those around her, channeling all manner of anxiety, depression and trauma into vivid, intensely human sketch drawings and large-scale papier-mâché sculptures. Ms. Alper is an artist who won’t let her disability slow her down.

Stiefel’s film is an intimate portrait of a complicated individual, attuned to the ways that art-making can assist the sometimes painful process of self-scrutiny and emotional revelation. Heaven Is a Traffic Jam On the 405 was created from more than 20 hours of interviews between Frank Stiefel and Mindy Alper.

Panel Discussants:

Frank Stiefel is the producer, writer, and cinematographer for the award-winning documentary, Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405. Stiefel came to filmmaking late in life, spending most of his career as an executive in the commercial production industry. As an executive producer at Stiefel & Company (and later at RadicalMedia), Stiefel oversaw the production of thousands of TV commercials. In 2009, Stiefel made his first short documentary, Ingelore, about his mother, a deaf Holocaust survivor, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010 and aired on HBO in 2011. At that point, he retired to concentrate on non-fiction filmmaking full-time.

Mindy Alper is a Los Angeles based artist whose work has been represented by the Rosamund Felsen Gallery, one of the most prestigious galleries in Los Angeles, since 2006. Ms. Alper works principally in line drawings and large-format papier-mâché. Her art focuses on depictions of people in her life as well as the experience of phobia, elucidating her own experience of mental illness and serving as a means of communication during periods in her life when she was unable to speak. For most of her 57 years she has suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety. Suffering through electro-shock therapy, multiple commitments to mental institutions and a 10-year period without speech, her only consistent means of communicating has been through her powerful and provocative drawings and sculpture.

Michael Gitlin, M.D. is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is currently the Director of the Adult Division of Psychiatry at the UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital and the Director of the Mood Disorders Clinic at the Semel Institute. A renowned psychopharmacologist, Dr. Gitlin is also the author of many scientific articles and book chapters as well as two editions of a solo authored psychopharmacology textbook written for non-physician therapists entitled The Psychotherapist’s Guide to Psychopharmacology. He recently coauthored a book entitled Psychotropic Drugs and Women with Dr. Victoria Hendrick. He served as Chief of Staff at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital from 1997-1999. His recent awards include: Distinguished Educator Award in Teaching from the UCLA Department of Psychiatry in 1999, the UCLA Department of Psychiatry Outstanding Housestaff Teaching Award in 1994, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern California Psychiatric Society in 1995. Dr. Gitlin was named Psychiatric Times Teacher of the Year in 2002. He has also won the award for the best Internal Medicine Board Review Course in the area of psychiatry from the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Monday, May 14, 2018
Melnitz Hall, UCLA 
Check-in 7:00 PM   |   Program 7:30 PM*
Admission is free but reservations are required. 
Parking is available for $12 in Structure 3

*Please note this program is starting a half hour
later than our usual Open Mind programs.

For questions email Wendy Kelman at