“Afflictions” films start Culture, Mind, and Brain conference

April 9, 2012

Ethnographic filmmaker and anthropologist Robert Lemelson combines scholarship and cinema artistry in his acclaimed film series, “Afflictions.” This Friday afternoon, Lemelson will be screening two of the films in this series on campus at the start of the annual conference of the U-M Center for Culture, Mind and the Brain.

According to Lemelson, a UCLA professor, 150 million in the developing world suffer from mental illness.  Psychiatric treatment is often limited or non-existent.  But the mentally ill typically return to their homes and their lives more quickly, are hospitalized less frequently, and experience less severe symptoms than their counterparts in Western nations.

In “Afflictions,” Lemelson shows the relationship between culture and mental illness in several rural Indonesian villages, where he filmed men, women, and children who suffer from schizophrenia and other serious psychiatric conditions.

Nyoman Kerata

Nyoman Kerata, a Balinese man with a psychotic-like illness dons a traditional mask in “Shadows and Illuminations” which explores how non-normative mental events and behavior, including auditory and visual hallucinations, can be understood or interpreted in multiple ways outside the confines of western psychiatric diagnostics. Click image for larger version.

One of the films Lemelson will be showing is “Shadows and Illuminations,” which paints a portrait of Nyoman Kereta, a rural Balinese man in his late sixties who suffers from a psychotic-like illness. The film looks at Nyoman’s history of trauma and loss, his prolonged sickness from pesticide poisoning and treatment by traditional healers. It illustrates how Nyoman’s wife’s love and support have helped him find peace in his life.

The other film he will screen here is “Memory of My Face,” which looks at the life of Bambang Rudjito, a highly intelligent and urbanized Javanese man in his late 30s, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. The film demonstrates the impact of globalization on how Bambang expresses his illness and follows his treatment with pharmaceuticals, relationship with his family, search for meaning in a Muslim religious community and for reward in the work that he is capable of doing.

Bambang with wife

Bambang with wife – Bambang Rudjito, a Javanese man diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, poses with his wife in “Memory of My Face,” a film which illustrates how the residues of colonialism and the pervasive influence of globalization affect the subjective experience of mental illness.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a Q&A with Lemelson. It takes place on central campus on Friday, April 13, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Room 6050 at the U-M Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor.

The event and the annual conference of the U-M Center for Culture, Mind, and the Brain, is sponsored by the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), ISR Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD), ISR Center for Culture, Mind, and the Brain, U-M Center for International Business Education, Ross School of Business.