The Healer & The Psychiatrist

In the South Pacific Island group of Vava’u, the traditional healer Emeline Lolohea treats people affected by spirits. One day away by ferry, the only Tongan Psychiatrist Dr Mapa Puloka has established a public psychiatry well known across the region. Though they have never met in person, this film creates a dialogue between them on the nature of mental illness and spiritual affliction. Their discussion offers challenges and opportunities to help address the growing global mental health crisis.

Mike Poltorak is an award winning independent documentary filmmaker and medical/visual anthropologist whose work explores the theme of social health through text, ethnographic film and interactive transmedia. His projects emerge out of long term involvement, community engagement and feedback and include documentaries on Tongan comedy (Fun(d)raising: The Secret of Tongan Comedy, 2010), volunteerism in a Swedish alternative community (One Week West of Molkom, 2013) and the dance form of contact improvisation (Five Ways In, 2014). His latest documentary on mental health and spirituality in Tonga (The Healer and the Psychiatrist, 2019) won the SVA Best Feature Film Award 2020 and has screened in many global documentary, indigenous and ethnographic film festivals. As a teacher of visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking he has won national, faculty and student led prizes. He has also taught social and medical anthropology at the Universities of Sussex, Kent and University College London. His publications in key regional and medical anthropology journals on mental health, traditional healing, vaccination, public psychiatry and healing efficacy are cited widely. He gained his MSc in Medical Anthropology and PhD in Social Anthropology at UCL.

Check out Mike Poltorak’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview here:

The Healer & The Psychiatrist will be screening in the Features section of the Virtual Festival.

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