Shadows and Illuminations 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.
The film follows an older Balinese man, Nyoman Kereta, as he struggles with the intrusion of spirits into his consciousness. Kereta says he has been living in two worlds, the world of his family and community and the world of the spirits, for the past 40 years. His experiences skirt the borders of cultural and spiritual norms, simultaneously manifesting and exceeding Balinese beliefs about the supernatural world and the possibilities for human interaction with it.
Kereta is a gentle middle-aged Balinese man with lines deeply etched into his suntanned face. He has been married for over 25 years to a woman who is a member of his clan. Together they have two adult sons.
When Kereta is feeling well he is active in neighborhood activities, such as playing in the local village gamelan orchestra. However, he is sometimes unable to participate due to disturbances by the spirits, which affect his physical and mental state. He speaks candidly and openly about his relationship with these spirit beings and the efforts he has made to care for them or alternately to make them leave. He says he has been living in two worlds, the world of his family and community and the world of the spirits, for more than 15 years.
Kereta’s experiences skirt the borders of cultural and spiritual norms, simultaneously manifesting and exceeding Balinese beliefs about the supernatural world and the possibilities for human interaction with it. Kereta’s reported experiences seem credible or explicable to some, bizarre and extraordinary to others, enigmatic to his wife, and the sign of major mental illness to his psychiatrist.
Meanwhile, the precipitating factors that might have initiated these experiences are multiple. Whether he is haunted by past loss and grief, visited and at times tormented by invisible beings, or in protest against years of political anxiety and social stress, Kereta draws strength and comfort from his family as he finds the best ways to manage his symptoms and contribute to the household.
Multi Touch Film Guide eBook
With a complete documentary film, ethnography, and multi-media interactive study guide contained in one package, this immersive ebook is anthropology for the 21st century. It provides students and educators with an innovative and updated way to explore key topics in psychological anthropology through the story of Kereta, a Balinese man who believes he lives in two worlds, the everyday world and the world of the spirits. His case raises fascinating questions about culture, personal experience, mental illness, and trauma.
TImeline of a Visual Clinical Ethnography
Director Robert Lemelson meets Kereta as part of a collaborative research project conducting 10-year follow-up interviews with people who have experienced acute psychosis. Reviewing research protocols, diagnosis and clinical instruments.
Lemelson and Kereta develop a rapport, and Kereta is recruited into Rob’s subsample. Lemelson conducts extensive person-centered interviewing. Kereta and Lemelson meet on a bi-monthly basis for a year.
Filming of Kereta begins in collaboration with Carolyn Rouse, an anthropologist with film experience. Kereta is filmed during interviews, and during his daily life at home and in the community.
After a hiatus devoted to writing up original research, Lemelson returns to the field and continues filming Kereta, in annual visits that have continued for more than a decade, up to the present.
Editing on the film that would eventually become Shadows and Illuminations begins.
Final cut of Shadows and Illuminations is completed. Film achieves distribution and is screened at festivals and other events.
Director Rob Lemelson meets Kereta as part of a collaborative research project conducting 10-year follow-up interviews with people who have experienced acute psychosis. Reviewing research protocols, diagnosis, and clinical instruments.