By Staff Reporter
Award winning Zimbabwean documentary filmmaker Hopewell Chin’ono has brought in high riding musician Jah Prayzah to write and compose music for his new documentary, State of Mind, an important film that highlights mental health issues in Zimbabwe.
State of Mind is looking at Mental illness in Zimbabwe through the eyes of the mentally ill, their relatives and a psychiatrist. It also speaks to Zimbabweans who have encountered traumatic events in their lives and looks at how they have affected them.
State of Mind will be the first documentary film made in Zimbabwe with unprecedented access into two psychiatric hospitals looking at how the mentally ill are medically treated and the problems which they face living with mental illness conditions.
The central character in the documentary film Dr Dixon Chibanda is the leading research and clinical psychiatrist in Zimbabwe and is one of only 12 psychiatrists dealing with an estimated population of 15 million people.
Dr Chibanda set up the very popular Friendship Bench treatment program which assists citizens struggling with mental illness by giving them access to trained community Grandmothers who counsel them at council clinics.
The documentary film will look at this community based mental illness treatment intervention and how it has helped over 40 000 Zimbabweans who ordinarily would have struggled without help. It will ask why The Friendship Bench program has produced better results than institutionalization.
Currently, only two percent of mentally ill people get access to medical facilities across Africa and as such, community treatment interventions like Dr Chibanda’s Friendship Bench hope to address this problem.
Speaking on his teaming up with Jah Prayzah, Hopewell Chin’ono said he was moved by Jah Prayzah’s refusal to accept payment for composing the music for the documentary film.
“I spoke to JP about the documentary film explaining my motivation and desired outcomes of tackling stigma, educating people on what mental illness is and giving a voice to the mentally ill amongst many other goals. JP immediately said that he wanted to be part of the project.
“When it came to payment, he simply said that he was doing it because it was an important cause and that he respected the work that I have done in the past looking at HIV and Aids and the struggle for access to HIV drugs by Zimbabweans,” said Chin’ono.
Hopewell Chin’ono made a multi award winning documentary film in 2007 called Pain in my Heart looking at HIV & Aids.
It won him the CNN African Journalist of the year award, the Henry Kaiser Foundation Award for HIV and Aids reporting in Africa, The Desmond Tutu African Leadership Institute award and the USAid sponsored Auxillia Chimusoro Award.
Chin’ono has previously made documentary films looking at post election violence, profiling the internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa and the politics of farm invasions. One of his films, A Violent Response, was nominated for a Rory Peck award in London and was also nominated for Canada’s equivalent of an Oscar, The BANFF Award.
State of Mind will project the struggles and lives of six mentally ill patients and follow their progress in hospital and continue following them when they are released to go home.
One of the patients in the film is a medical doctor who speaks passionately about how stigma is at the center of his struggles. He was the Head of Oral Health in Zimbabwe and has struggled with mental illness for close to 30 years.
The film will also feature two cousins, one a Sonographer and her cousin who is unemployed, both have battled with bipolar disorder for decades and they worry that there could be a genetic link to their illness.
The film gets access to an Autistic school in Harare where a family was forced by circumstances to start the school after they could not find a school place for their autistic child.
The school is one of the few places in Zimbabwe where Autistic children can be taught whilst getting the critical attention that they deserve.
Chin’ono said this has been the most challenging film he has ever made because of the emotions and flashbacks he kept getting of his own mother’s struggle with mental illness, the main reason why he decided to make State of Mind.
“I want to show that mental illness can happen to anyone and that it can be treated, it is a chemical imbalance which is not different from diabetes.” Chin’ono said.
Mental illness cuts across the societal divide in Zimbabwe, however the majority of mental illness conditions like depression and anxiety are also being triggered by the economic hardships prevailing in that country.
Over 80% of men in psychiatric hospitals in Zimbabwe are suffering from substance-induced psychosis.
Many of them take misplaced comfort in drugs and alcohol to escape life pressures like unemployment.
The film will also show the effects of trauma on many people who have been victims of domestic violence, racism and wars.
“The film will have prominent and successful people who have struggled with mental illness disorders talking about their stories of how they have overcome and are living normal lives.’ Chin’ono added.
“Dr Dixon Chibanda is the central character in the film and all the stories that you will see will be told through his work,” said Chin’ono who also writes for The New York Times.
State of Mind is being made with assistance from The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and will be out on release on the 10th of October with launches taking place in Harare, Johannesburg, London, Nottingham, New York, Toronto and at Harvard University where Chin’ono is an alumni.
State of Mind will be edited by award winning German film-editor Olaf Koschke.
You can follow State of Mind on Facebook at
https://m.facebook.com/stateofminddoc/ and on twitter @stateofminddoc https://twitter.com/Stateofminddoc
Pain in my heart
A Violent Response