Family Victim is part of a series of ethnographic films on severe mental illness in Indonesia, based on material drawn from 12 years of person-centered research by director and anthropologist Robert Lemelson.
Estu Wardhani is a young Javanese man and has struggled for most of his life to achieve a sense of competency and inclusion in his familial and social world. The second youngest of eight children born to an upper-class family living in the rural region of Gunung Kidul in Cental Java, Estu has been ‘different’ ever since he was a young boy. Estu’s actions, and their disorienting power, cannot be understood outside of the cultural and social context within which they have taken shape nor can they be considered apart from the disruptive and painful effects they have on his family.
Estu’s problems are interpreted as ‘psychopathy’ by a psychiatrist, spirit possession by local healers, and as dimangakan or ‘spoiled’ by his family. Estu himself desires to be a ‘big man’, and he feels misunderstood and disrespected by his family. His case involves not only his own troubling symptoms, but the striking and extensive interpretive work his family, healers and community engages in while trying to understand Estu’s personality and behavior.
This film explores the multiple ways the family interprets such dilemmas, and his tribulations and finally transformations as he matures into culturally defined adulthood.