PTSD Florida fishing therapy documentary comes to Seminole film fest

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With more and more troops surging home from overseas war zones, the letters PTSD have become a household acronym. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the diagnosis used to be a thing of shame for returning soldiers. All that has changed now. People and groups are jumping into the ring to help these emotionally scarred heroes.

That includes a documentary filmmaker and her team. Meet Abigail Tannebaum Sharon, creator of Rudy + Neal Go Fishing. Her 20-30 minute documentary trails a veteran named Rudy and his unlikely friend named Neal.

A Kickstarter page describes the documentary as the story of two guys going fishing in South Florida, except it’s not “your ordinary fishing trip.”

“Rudy spent a majority of his military career in multiple war zones and when Neal is not competing in a fishing competition, he makes a living cutting hair in Miami. Watch how the simplicity and tranquility of fishing in this remote paradise allows this vet to reconnect with nature and start to heal,” the page describes.

A trailer of the now completed film was released on Vimeo. It describes PTSD as a very real problem for vets, noting that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. In the trailer, Rudy describes himself as a shut in who only goes out when he’s dragged.

That’s where Neal comes in. The not-so-ordinary hairdresser is a beefy, manly looking man with a penchant for sport fishing. He says his service to the country lies in helping vets with some fishing therapy.

The project was initially self-funded by the documentary team, but nearly $17,000 was later raised on Kickstarter for editing and other post-production work.

The film will be shown at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival in Seminole this weekend. Both Rudy and Neal are expected to attend the noon showing on Saturday at the Bay Pines VA Hospital. An open viewing will also be held at 2:05.

The festival kicks off Thursday with a short film block starting at 7:00 p.m. featuring films about the “Flavors of Florida.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email