“Learning to Swallow” in Chicago Film Fest tracks artist Desmond’s recovery after suicide attempt

Danielle Beverly was an accomplished young TV documentary producer looking for a subject for her first feature doc when, in 2000, she heard that her friend Patsy Desmond had attempted suicide by drinking drain cleaner in a bipolar episode.

Desmond, a photographer and fixture in the 90’s Wicker Park art scene, had destroyed her stomach and esophagus and was recovering in a Florida nursing home.

After visiting Desmond in Florida, Beverly “reflected on the immense and profound challenges that Patsy would face as she tried to rebuild her life. I had a sense that her difficult journey would make a powerful documentary film,” Beverly said.

That film, “Learning to Swallow,” has its local premiere Oct. 7 in the Chicago International Film Festival.