Northwest Connections | 2017 | 82 minutes
Stranger Says: This critique of Western medicine hits all the hallmarks: doctors questioning the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, American shamans, the fetishization of native cultures in other hemispheres. Following several people who have experienced trauma and mental illness but found more relief in alternative medicine than in pharmaceuticals, the film sets out to ask whether Western cultures could learn from the way some other societies embrace people with mental illness instead of medicating them. It’s a premise that could work with critical thought applied. Instead, the filmmaker allows his sources to question the existence of mental illness and moralize about the evils of modern medicine with little care for the harm that may be done by discouraging people who could benefit from that modern medicine from seeking help. In short, this film sucks. (HEIDI GROOVER)
SIFF Says:The diagnosis and treatment of mental-health issues is certainly a hot-button topic in the United States. Human-rights photographer and filmmaker Phil Borges has explored several indigenous tribes and Eastern cultures throughout his career, and has concluded that Western experts may be going at it all wrong. Crazywise recounts the journeys of two young Americans: Adam, 27, who has suffered several psychotic breaks and averse reactions to mood-stabilizing medications throughout his life, and Ekhaya, 32, who has struggled to overcome past trauma and deep depression since her childhood. To deal with his anger issues and medicinal side effects, Adam goes on a silent retreat, embracing meditation in the hope of recovery; while Ekhaya realizes that in order to heal she must confront her past, and decides to help others by becoming a traditional South African healer. Through several interviews with both Western mental-health professionals and psychologists as well as the family and friends of Adam and Ekhaya, this documentary explores their alternative, spiritual routes of healing, giving a fresh perspective to an age-old social issue in this modern world.
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