Teaching Cultural Psychiatry with Films
Film has a unique ability to reach people with the color and texture of an emotional world, giving clinicians a chance to enter into the lived experience of people with mental disorders and people from radically different cultural backgrounds.
We present here an annotated filmography and analysis of three types of films useful in teaching cultural psychiatry: (1) films made specifically to teach cultural psychiatry; (2) ethnographic films that present cultural material relevant to understanding psychiatric disorders; (3) mainstream films that portray people with mental disorders or reveal importance dimensions of cultural experience.. Films in the first two categories are quite scarce, hence the value of drawing material from the mainstream. Even when the portrayal of psychiatric or cultural material is inaccurate in the popular media, it can provide a stimulating basis for discussion. Further, as an art form, film itself represents an effort to grapple with, synthesize and, at times, transcend the psychological dilemmas and cultural conflicts that affect our patients and our selves.
There are several useful lists and compendia of films for psychiatry. The present compilation differs in emphasizing the cultural dimensions. Most of the films included represent the intersection of cultural and psychiatric issues. We have also included many films with little or no explicit mental health content because they are especially good portraits of cultural worlds.
Clinicians need to understand not just their patients’ disorders but also their social predicaments. This requires a broad range of social and cultural knowledge that may be difficult to acquire. We are convinced that films — particularly when coupled with in-depth discussion and analysis —provide a way to achieve some of this contextual knowledge in an agreeable and efficient manner. Although, this films can be watched alone with profit, the most powerful way to use them is as part of seminars or discussion groups, ideally with the inclusion of individuals who can provide a personal link and elaboration of the material or social context in the film. This also provides for some error correction, insofar as the films often present idiosyncratic views or striking examples that may lead to stereotyping. Another way to avoid stereotyping is to view several films around a particular topic, presenting diverse perspectives.
In the case of locally produced films, documentaries and independent films it is sometimes possible to invite the film-maker to be present at the screening or on another occasion. This adds a fascinating dimension to the approach to the film, in that one can learn about the background, the filmmakers’ motivations and intent, and understand the artistic process which offers insights into the personal, emotional and social dynamics of the themes explored by the film as well as dimensions of the creative process relevant to healing and psychotherapy.
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Barlet, O. (2000). African Cinemas: Decolonizing the Gaze. London; New York: Zed Books.
Bateson, G., Mead, M., Belo, J., & Foerstel (Lenora) Collection (Library of Congress). (1951). Trance and dance in Bali. United States: New York University Film Library.
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Bukatman, S. (1997). Blade Runner. London: British Film Institute.
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- The Intersection of Psychological Anthropology with Ethnographic Film
- Movies and Mental Illness Biography:
- Movies and Mental Illness Filmography:
- Movies on Race and Ethnicity collection at UC Berkeley:
- Hollywood's Portrayal of Psychopathology:
- 106-page document & filmography on Using Film to Teach Psychology:
- Literature, arts & medicine database
- NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA - Free! Over 100 films about cultural diversity now online:
Documentary Film Distributers
Films Used in the McGill Summer Program
Between Two World
The Culture of Emotions
Frantz Fanon: Black Skin/White Mask
Jero Tapakan: Balinese Healer
A Korean Shaman Initiation Kut
The Museum of the Unconscious
Not Yet Diagnosed
Rape: A Crime of War
The Spirit Possession of Alessandro Mamani