In this Cinema Eye Best Short Doc award winner, a courageous young Scottish actress takes the boldest step imaginable to confront her risk of having inherited the fatal, incurable Huntington's Disease.

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The film originally premiered as a 15-minute film, but has now been expanded and runs 28 minutes long.

This verité documentary is about confronting life’s most daunting moments with purpose and grace, and about the impact of genetic bonds and genetic testing on the people we love and on how we face our destiny. Stunningly courageous young filmmaker-actress Marianna Palka gathers her friends around her as she finds out whether she has inherited Huntington’s Disease, an incurable degenerative disorder which took her father and now has a 50% chance of taking her body and her mind. Intimate, suspenseful, and emotional, with sensitive verité cinematography by Nick Higgins, and with a title taken from the Bob Dylan poem which Marianna recites about Woody Guthrie who died from Huntington’s Disease, The Lion’s Mouth Opens ultimately inspires us to find a new dream no matter what.

premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2014
Winner Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking, Cinema Eye Honors 2015
Grand Jury Award nomination, Sundance Film Festival 2014
Best Short Doc nomination, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014
Special Jury Mention for Best Short Documentary, Aspen ShortsFest 2014
Finalist, Best Short Film, Ashland Independent Film Festival 2014
Director's Choice Best Short Doc, Rincon International Film Festival 2014
Moving Mountains Prize nomination, MountainFilm in Telluride 2014
Audience Award for Best Documentary Short, Traverse City Film Festival 2014
shortlisted for Best Documentary Short, Academy Awards 2015

"an espresso shot to the heart" - LA Times

"the most emotionally devastating film at the Sundance Film Festival this year was a short" - Filmmaker Magazine

“her latest work managed to become one of the most discussed and buzzed-about films to play in Park City this year… Rarely has a short made such an impact.” - Realscreen

“a deftly executed piece of filmmaking… a powerful study of fear and friendship” - Aspen Daily News

"Soon the audience is a part of this extended family privy, in real time, to the most intimate and terrifying line in the sand, life before-life after moments.” - ABC News

"it builds emotions that many films struggle to capture throughout a feature running time. Some films are best served long, while others are most effective as brief fragments of time, capturing the moment when the lion bares its jaws and the future becomes less scary, more clear.” - Thompson on Hollywood, IndieWIRE

To donate to Huntington's Disease research in Marianna's name go here.
The film so far has raised over $105,000 for HD research :) Thanks so much everyone!

In the U.S.A., the film will be broadcast on HBO during Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month, and after that it will also be available online, and we want it to help those in the Huntington's Disease community, so if there are any ways in which we can use the film to help raise funds or awareness please be in touch. For screening or other inquiries,please contact us here.


"And the lion's mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath"

The title "The Lion's Mouth Opens" is taken from lines from a poem that Bob Dylan wrote about Woody Guthrie called "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" which Marianna recites aloud in the film.

The story of the poem is that Dylan went to visit Woody Guthrie (arguably his greatest early influence) in Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, where Guthrie was dying from Huntington’s Disease. Dylan recited the poem live only once, after he returned to the stage at the end of his April 12, 1963 performance at New York's Town Hall. Dylan explained that "there's this book coming out, and they asked me to write something about Woody, sort of like what does Woody Guthrie mean to you in 25 words, and I couldn't do it, I wrote out five pages".

To listen to Dylan reciting the poem please visit:

Here's the poem in full:

Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie
by Bob Dylan

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When yer laggin' behind an' losin' yer pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life's busy race
No matter what yer doing if you start givin' up
If the wine don't come to the top of yer cup
If the wind's got you sideways with with one hand holdin' on
And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood's easy findin' but yer lazy to fetch it
And yer sidewalk starts curlin' and the street gets too long
And you start walkin' backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow's mornin' seems so far away
And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin'
And yer rope is a-slidin' 'cause yer hands are a-drippin'
And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe's a-pourin'
And the lightnin's a-flashing and the thunder's a-crashin'
And the windows are rattlin' and breakin' and the roof tops a-shakin'
And yer whole world's a-slammin' and bangin'
And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
And to yourself you sometimes say
"I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn't they tell me the day I was born"
And you start gettin' chills and yer jumping from sweat
And you're lookin' for somethin' you ain't quite found yet
And yer knee-deep in the dark water with yer hands in the air
And the whole world's a-watchin' with a window peek stare
And yer good gal leaves and she's long gone a-flying
And yer heart feels sick like fish when they're fryin'
And yer jackhammer falls from yer hand to yer feet
And you need it badly but it lays on the street
And yer bell's bangin' loudly but you can't hear its beat
And you think yer ears might a been hurt
Or yer eyes've turned filthy from the sight-blindin' dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterdays rush
When you were faked out an' fooled white facing a four flush
And all the time you were holdin' three queens
And it's makin you mad, it's makin' you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin' around a pinball machine
And there's something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin'
But it's trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when your layin' in bed
And no matter how you try you just can't say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it
And yer eyes get swimmy from the tears in yer head
And yer pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion's mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath
And yer flat on your belly with yer hands tied behind
And you wish you'd never taken that last detour sign
And you say to yourself just what am I doin'
On this road I'm walkin', on this trail I'm turnin'
On this curve I'm hanging
On this pathway I'm strolling, in the space I'm taking
In this air I'm inhaling
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I'm playing, on this banjo I'm frailin'
On this mandolin I'm strummin', in the song I'm singin'
In the tune I'm hummin', in the words I'm writin'
In the words that I'm thinkin'
In this ocean of hours I'm all the time drinkin'
Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let
Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make yer heart pound
But then again you know why they're around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
"Cause sometimes you hear'em when the night times comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you a-sleeping
And you jump from yer bed, from yer last chapter of dreamin'
And you can't remember for the best of yer thinking
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that it's something special you're needin'
And you know that there's no drug that'll do for the healin'
And no liquor in the land to stop yer brain from bleeding
And you need something special
Yeah, you need something special all right
You need a fast flyin' train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That's been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows yer troubles a hundred times over
You need a Greyhound bus that don't bar no race
That won't laugh at yer looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book
Will be rollin' long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it's you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you're sitting
That the world ain't got you beat
That it ain't got you licked
It can't get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked
You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope's just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner 'round a wide-angled curve

But that's what you need man, and you need it bad
And yer trouble is you know it too good
"Cause you look an' you start getting the chills

"Cause you can't find it on a dollar bill
And it ain't on Macy's window sill
And it ain't on no rich kid's road map
And it ain't in no fat kid's fraternity house
And it ain't made in no Hollywood wheat germ
And it ain't on that dimlit stage
With that half-wit comedian on it
Ranting and raving and taking yer money
And you thinks it's funny
No you can't find it in no night club or no yacht club
And it ain't in the seats of a supper club
And sure as hell you're bound to tell
That no matter how hard you rub
You just ain't a-gonna find it on yer ticket stub
No, and it ain't in the rumors people're tellin' you
And it ain't in the pimple-lotion people are sellin' you
And it ain't in no cardboard-box house
Or down any movie star's blouse
And you can't find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can't tell you and neither can Santa Claus
And it ain't in the cream puff hair-do or cotton candy clothes
And it ain't in the dime store dummies or bubblegum goons
And it ain't in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knockin' and tappin' in Christmas wrappin'
Sayin' ain't I pretty and ain't I cute and look at my skin
Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow
Look at my skin laugh, look at my skin cry
When you can't even sense if they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows
No you'll not now or no other day
Find it on the doorsteps made out-a paper mache¥
And inside it the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair of sunglasses
And it ain't in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies
Who'd turn yuh in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again but this time behind yer back
My friend
The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can't find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain't in the ones that ain't got any talent but think they do
And think they're foolin' you
The ones who jump on the wagon
Just for a while 'cause they know it's in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of money and chicks
And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat
Sayin', "Christ do I gotta be like that
Ain't there no one here that knows where I'm at
Ain't there no one here that knows how I feel
Good God Almighty

No but that ain't yer game, it ain't even yer race
You can't hear yer name, you can't see yer face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin'
Where do you look for this lamp that's a-burnin'
Where do you look for this oil well gushin'
Where do you look for this candle that's glowin'
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You'll find God in the church of your choice
You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You'll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown

Official Selection, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, True/False Film Fest 2014
Official Selection, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014
Official Selection, Sydney Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Palm Springs Shortsfest 2014
Official Selection, Chicago Critics Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Rooftop Films 2014
Official Selection, MountainFilm in Telluride 2014
Official Selection, Nashville Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Maryland Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Sun Valley Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Napa Valley Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Seattle International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Focus Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Los Angeles Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Vancouver International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, AFI DOCS 2014
Official Selection, Provincetown International Film Festival
Official Selection, Tacoma Film Festival
Official Selection, Traverse City Film Festival
Official Selection, Amfest Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Big Eddy Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Calgary International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Camden International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Camerimage Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Cinema Vérité Iran International Documentary Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Culture Smash Nashville 2014
Official Selection, DOC NYC Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Docuwest International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Dokufest Kosovo Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Hamptons International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Imagine Science Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2014
Official Selection, New Hampshire Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, ReFrame Peterborough International Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Rehoboth Beach Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, St. Louis International Film Festival 2014