Swans Reflecting Elephants

Swans Reflecting Elephants
A Documentary by Niek Ceylan
Crowdfunding teaser: 
donated of €6.000
days to go

Project Information

About the project
LOCKLINEHampered by my mental illness, I seek counsel from my only hope: a fellow sufferer I saw on TV sixteen years ago. Will he be able to help me forward?


At age 16 years I watch an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. A young man in his early twenties tells Oprah that when he looks in the mirror he sees a face so horribly disfigured that it doesn't even look human.

With amazement I watch how this beautiful boy, named Jesse, can find himself so ugly. At the same time, I feel recognition for the first time because, when I look in the mirror, I feel the exact same thing. 

Jesse suffers from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): a psychological disorder in which the patient has a deviant image of his own body. Some people do not even recognize themselves in photographs anymore.

I, too, am ashamed of my vanity and ugliness. I don't want anyone to know about my condition. It is my biggest secret that I secretly  share with ‘Jesse’, until I myself am diagnosed with BDD at the age of thirty.

I am considering to change my appearance through plastic surgery so that I can be happy with it. In a last effort to accept myself as I am, without surgery, I want to look for Jesse in the hope that he can help me with the choice that lies ahead of me. Will I find the young man I saw on TV 16 years ago? How is he doing now, and what will he advise me?


Little is still known about Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Research indicates that 1% of the population has BDD, among young people that is 12%, and among people who have cosmetic surgery between 16% and 20%, although that number is probably higher because the disease is relatively new and there is a lot of shame. About 80% of individuals with this disorder report a history of suicidal thoughts. 

My history with BDD has been a lonely journey. I would have benefited greatly from knowing more about this disease in the past. With this film, I want to provide insight into the complexity of the disorder and make it understandable to a wider audience. 

The condition is often confused with vanity or insecurity, which is why patients keep the condition hidden, as I did myself all those years. But I'm past the shame now and hope that by being open about my own journey I can help others the way that boy on the Oprah Winfrey show once helped me.

As a filmmaker with BDD, I am in a unique position, which allows me to give an inside view of this illness. I am also fascinated by BDD in a broader sense. In a world where ‘appearance’ seems to dominate more and more, I want to use this film to question its value and explore the path to self-acceptance.

To make this film, you can donate or share this page. Every little bit helps! Doing this will make you part of a special film about a subject which little is known about.

Follow us on Instagram: @swansreflectingelephants

Quote that inspired the maker

"When you accept yourself, the whole world accepts you."
De Chinese filosoof Lao-Tzu (geboren 571 v.C.)
make sure this movie gets realised

Fund Project