DER Documentary

Afflictions: Culture and Mental Illness in Indonesia Series

Afflictions: Culture and Mental Illness in Indonesia Series launch preview watch a preview of Shadows and Illuminations

A series of 6 films
by Robert Lemelson
color, 182 min, 2010/2011
English subtitles




Non-profit and K-12 pricing also available
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Afflictions: Culture and Mental Illness in Indonesia is a six-part series of ethnographic films on severe mental illness in Indonesia, based on material drawn from 12 years of person-centered research by writer/anthropologist Robert Lemelson. The series, which follows six individuals of different ages and backgrounds, explores the relationship between culture, mental illness, and first-person experience.

The films may be purchased individually, as a complete series, or in two sets organized by theme:

Volume 1: Psychotic Disorders



Shadows & Illuminations (35 minutes, 2010) explores how non-normative mental events and behavior can be understood or interpreted in multiple ways outside the confines of Western psychiatric diagnostics.

Memory of My Face (22 minutes, 2011) illustrates how the residues of colonialism and the pervasive influence of globalization affect the subjective experience of mental illness.

Ritual Burdens (25 minutes, 2011) questions how communal spiritual obligations may be folded into personal schemas of stress to trigger episodes of mental illness.


Volume 2: Neuropsychiatric Disorders



The Bird Dancer (40 minutes, 2010) focuses on the social stigma of neuropsychiatric disorder and the human suffering it entails.

Family Victim (38 minutes, 2010) examines bi-directional influences between an individual considered to have a disruptive or troublesome personality.

Kites and Monsters (22 minutes, 2011) follows a young Balinese from boyhood to manhood, discovering the influential and protective aspects of culture that may guide developmental neuropsychiatric processes.

“...these three films by Robert Lemelson represent a significant contribution to ethnographic film as a whole and to the cross-cultural visual representation of mental illness in particular. As the culmination of over a decade of close and continuing interaction with his informants, the films show cultural and visual anthropology at their best.” — Karen Nakamura, American Anthropologist, Vol. 113, No. 4
“If, like me, you teach psychological anthropology, The Bird Dancer, and the series of six videos of which it is part, deserve to be on your short list for consideration. Aesthetically, the videos work especially well. The length of each episode, at first daunting, gives the viewer time to digest the various layers of difference: the visual difference of Bali, the cultural variation in practices and issues like self presentation, and the sometimes disturbing disjunction of the lives of individuals with mental illness.” — Greg Downey, Public Library of Science (full review)

Related Resources
The Bird Dancer study guide (PDF)
Family Victim study guide (PDF)
Memory of My Face study guide (PDF)
Ritual Burdens study guide (PDF)
Shadows & Illuminations study guide (PDF)

Films in the Afflictions series
The Bird Dancer
Family Victim
Shadows & Illuminations
Kites and Monsters
Memory of My Face
Ritual Burdens

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Winner, Best Editing, Best Sound Design, Los Angeles New Wave Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA, 2013
Winner, Special Jury Prize, California Film Awards, San Diego, CA, 2013
Winner, Award of Excellence, International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration and Equality, Indonesia, 2013
Winner, Award of Excellence, International Film Festival for Environment, Health and Culture, Indonesia, 2013
Semi-Finalist, Moondance Film Festival, Boulder, CO, 2012
Special Mention, Caserta Ethnographic Film Festival, Caserta, Italy, 2012
Winner, Special Jury Prize, California Film Awards, San Diego, CA, 2012 (Afflictions 2010)
Award of Excellence, Accolades Film, Television, New Media and Videography Awards, 2012 (Afflictions 2010)
Nominee, Best Limited Series, Int'l Documentary Association Awards, Los Angeles, CA, 2010 (Afflictions 2010)
Winner, Cine Golden Eagle Award, 2011 (Afflictions 2010)
Winner, Award of Excellence, The Indie Fest, 2011 (Afflictions 2011)
Winner, Award of Merit, Best Shorts Competition, La Jolla, CA, 2011 (Shadows and Illuminations)
Winner, Award of Excellence, Best Shorts Competition, 2011 (The Bird Dancer)
Winner, Bronze Award for Short Documentary, Prestige Film Awards, 2012 (Ritual Burdens)
Winner, Silver Screen Award, Nevada Film Festival, Las Vegas, NV, 2010 (Afflictions 2010)
Nominee, Honorable Mention, Richmond Int'l Film Festival, Richmond, VA, 2012 (Shadows and Illuminations)
Semi-Finalist, Moondance Film Festival, Boulder, CO, 2012 (Afflictions 2011)
Best Documentary Feature, Los Angeles Int'l Underground Film Festival, 2012 (Shadows and Illuminations)
1st Place Documentary Feature, Los Angeles Reel Film Festival, 2012 (Shadows and Illuminations)
Northern California International Film Festival, Modesto, CA, 2013 (Memory of My Face)
Sun & Sand Film Festival, Biloxi, MS, 2012 (Family Victim)
Offshoot Film Festival, Fayetteville, AK, 2012 (The Bird Dancer)
WorldKids International Film Festival, Mumbai, India, 2012 (Kites and Monsters)
San Francisco Shorts Film Festival, San Francisco, CA, 2012 (Memory of My Face)
Special Mention, Caserta Ethnographic Film Festival, Caserta, Italy, 2012 (Memory of My Face)
Fallbrook Film Festival, Fallbrook, CA, 2013 (The Bird Dancer)
The 46th Annual Humboldt Film Festival, Arcata, CA, 2013 (Kites and Monsters)
Awareness Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA, 2012 (Afflictions 2010)
Cincinnati Film Festival, Cincinnati, OH 2012 (Afflictions 2010)
Gig Harbor Film Festival, Gig Harbor, WA, 2010 (Afflictions 2010)
Society for Visual Anthropology Media Festival, New Orleans, LA, 2010 (Afflictions 2010)
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