Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Crazywise (SIFF 2017) - Documentary Review

The Movie: Crazywise

The Directors: Phil Borges, Kevin Tomlinson

The Story: Crazy…or wise? The traditional wisdom of indigenous cultures often contradicts modern views about a mental health crisis. Is it a ‘calling’ to grow or just a ‘broken brain’? This documentary explores what can be learned from people around the world who have turned their psychological crisis into a positive trans-formative experience.

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." - Rumi

These words are the very first thing you see as the film begins and it quickly becomes apparent that the film makers want this to be a definitive mantra for the information they are trying to convey. This documentary carries a message of healing, of hope, and of possibility in the face of systematic oppression. Even while it argues against modern medicine, it never feels heavy handed or damning and it ends up being a very honest comparison between technology and tradition using the two primary subjects as examples of how both can have profound effects on an individual.

I would say that anyone who might read this review has some experience with mental illness whether it be their own struggle, a family member's, or someone connected to their life in other ways so the subject matter of the film should be a very relevant topic. While watching the film, many thoughts crossed my mind regarding my own life as well as those around me although in ways I may not have thought of before I hit play. Borges and Tomlinson do such a good job of humanizing and normalizing mental illness and they put the so called symptoms in such a completely different frame of mind that it becomes easy to rethink the programming we have all been following for decades.

While all of that may sound a little heavy, please trust me when I say that this is still a very engaging and entertaining documentary along with all of the talking heads and information it throws at you. As the primary subjects of the film, both Ekhaya and Adam (pictured above and below respectively) have very unique stories yet they end up on a very similar path and we get to follow along with them over the course of a few years time. This in depth look into their lives is very eye opening as they each go through a series of breakthroughs and struggles and it is just there without being overly dramatized for the sake of entertainment. It is also great to see some of the other stories from the time Phil Borges spent documenting indigenous cultures around the world, which is what led to this documentary being created in the first place.

The Verdict:
Crazywise is a documentary that I am glad to have watched. The message of how mental illness is commonly perceived and categorized is very important for everyone to take in and consider and it was nice to see the subject handled so thoughtfully. I'm also happy to say that this is a locally produced project which was made possible by a successful crowd funding campaign so please go check it out.

Crazywise is an official selection of the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

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