Head Cold: filmmaker Gamma Bak conveys life with psychosis
When Berlin-based, Vancouver-raised filmmaker Gamma Bak had her first experience of psychosis at age 30, her boyfriend told her, "It's all like a cold in the head. It'll pass."
It didn't. It lasted for numerous years.
After several breakdowns in the mid-1990s and seven years into the incurable mental illness (which included treatment in a psychiatric clinic), Bak, who studied film at Simon Fraser University, began to film herself in 2001, engaged in video letter correspondence with family and friends, and chronicled her attempts to return to "normal" life. While she captures her attempt to cope with psychotic illness, including the side effects of her medication, it also conveys her struggles with both the diagnosis and the stigmatization of mental illness.
The result is the 92-minute film diary and experimental documentary Head Cold (Schnupfen im Kopf), which she shot over five years (and also used her own archives dating back to 1992) and took a total of eight years to complete. It even includes Bak attending her high school reunion here in Vancouver.
On the film's website, she made this statement:
With a healthy distance of several years behind me since my last crisis, it is clear to me: what happened to me is not just individually relevant. It calls attention to the areas where emancipation from the stigmatization resulting from the illness can be achieved. Within this highly personal documentary film, my story is both an incentive and an example all in one—it is the starting point of a discussion, and uses filmic methods to present the adventure spanning from coming to terms with the mental illness on up to the re-achievement of normality.
The driving force of the project is the unique perspective that arises from the combination of my position as a filmmaker and the person afflicted. I can use my craft to palpably convey a highly individual insight into the world of psychotic suffering. The subjective approach to the topic seems a necessity to me, even if it was initially very difficult for me to "out" myself.
Bak will be presenting her film at a special screening the Pacific Cinémathí¨que (1131 Howe Street) on April 1 at 7 p.m.
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