A 20-year fascination with shamanism leads photographer and filmmaker Phil Borges to question how Western cultures define and treat severe mental disorders. CRAZYWISE is a feature documentary centering around Adam Gentry, a young man struggling with his sanity while trying to understand his diagnosis and cope with the many pharmaceutical combinations prescribed to him. In-depth interviews with renowned mental health professionals, anthropologists and survivors reveal insights on the nature of mental illness and how a new survivor-led movement is challenging a mental health system in crisis.
While living with and documenting indigenous cultures for more than two decades, Phil witnessed that a young person’s ‘psychotic break’ often identified him or her as having shamanic potential. In contrast with Western culture, these indigenous societies view a mental break from ordinary reality as a gift. After careful training from a mentor, usually an older shaman, the ‘gifted one’ becomes a respected healer or seer of the community.
Back home, Phil is struck by how dramatically different these ‘first psychotic episodes’ are defined and treated. He meets and begins to film Adam, a sensitive and bright American in his twenties who has refused traditional medical treatment for his psychosis after experiencing devastating side effects from a variety of medications.
Desperate and feeling shame from being labeled with a potentially lifelong disease, Adam chooses an alternative approach embracing meditation. He becomes homeless and alienated from his family. Living out of a friend’s car, Adam connects with an artistic community that accepts his differences and allows him to face his ‘shadow side.’
CRAZYWISE questions the stigmatized, misunderstood world of mental health treatment and individual recovery. The goal of the film is to inspire greater understanding about the severity of our current mental health crisis, spark conversation on solutions and re-evaluate how our society defines and treats severe mental distress.
Visit www.crazywisefilm.com to watch an extended trailer and view exclusive expert interviews including:
Mary Olson, Ph.D.
Gabor Mate, M.D.
Fuller Torrey, M.D.
Stanislav Grof, M.D., Ph.D
Will Hall, M.A., Dipl.PW
Sandra Ingerman, M.A.
Dan Siegel, M.D.
Angeles Arrien, Ph.D.
Accompanying images and captions:
CRAZYWISE film banner
Thupten Ngodrup the current Kuten of the Nechung Oracle photographed in Dharamsala, India in 1994 near the Dalai Lama’s residence.
Adam Gentry was extremely athletic as a child and popular in high school. He became a black belt in Karate at age six and was becoming a professional wakeboard champion when he had his first psychological crisis.