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Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405    cover photo

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 2017


Distributed by Grasshopper Film, 12 East 32nd St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016
Produced by Frank Stiefel
Directed by Frank Stiefel
DVD , color, 88 min.

College - General Adult
Art, Artists, Biography, Family Relations, People with Disabilities, Psychology

Date Entered: 08/02/2018

Reviewed by Jeanette Aprile, University at Buffalo

Frank Stiefel, director of Ingelore (2009) has created an exceptional new film, also about perseverance in the face of unrelenting challenges. His latest film, Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, is at once delightful and melancholy as it depicts Mindy Alper, a papier-mache artist who uses her creativity to excel amidst mental illness. Mindy is the central focus of this short film about the therapy of art. Her personal authenticity brings grace and charm to the film’s more serious topics.

Mindy’s forthright honesty about her illness and the events of her life, which include possible sexual abuse and fraught relationships with her parents, are the backdrop against which the healing nature of creativity emerges. Mindy’s childhood drawings express pain and trouble at home, as well as a unique personal signature and early talent.

The film’s depiction of Mindy’s hardships and mental illness does not undermine the power of her artistic work – this film is especially recommended for viewers interested in art, even aside from art as therapy. Mindy’s papier-mache sculptures are evocative and visually interesting, but are all the more so in the context of Mindy’s personal narrative.

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 ultimately is an optimistic piece reminding viewers of the power of art to bring meaning to struggle. It is also about Mindy Alper’s strength to find value in life despite opposition from without and within. There is a subtle triumph as Mindy expresses doubt and dread about the opening of her show, even as she is on her way to attend to a wildly appreciative, packed audience.

Heaven is Traffic Jam on the 405 is recommended for academic and public libraries, especially for students of art, art therapy, and psychology.


  • Best Short Subject, Academy Awards, 2018
  • Best Short, Jury Award, 2017
  • Documentary Short, Audience Award, 2017