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Mental health challenges are handlable, treatable – Campbell, filmmaker

By Prisca Sam-Duru

Buky Campbell is a US-based movie maker who is passionate about impacting the society through creativity. Campbell is currently in Nigeria for the production of “Unbreakable”, a movie dealing with mental health issues. In this exclusive interview, she spoke extensively on what informed the subject matter and much more. Excerpts.

•Buky Campbell

What’s Unbreakable all about?

It is a movie that deals with how a newly married couple deals with the realisation that the new bride has mental issues. As the story is introduced to us we find the couple just back from honey moon. Later at the office, someone shows the husband a video of the wife walking in the streets in her night gown. So, it’s a story of how they deal with that.  The bigger story is that mental health should not be a death sentence for anybody.  “In our culture we like to hide, pretend. They’ll carry people with mental health challenge to the village, chain them, lock them in the house but the truth is that mental health  challenges are handlable and treatable. All anybody needs to do is to think of illnesses like diabetes. If you have diabetes you wont be ashamed to tell anybody about it. People need to know that there are medications for mental health.“We are trying to create an awareness that a diagnosis of mental health disease is not the end of the world.

This is a very rare topic in movie making, what informed it ?“Sometimes as a film maker you choose your stories and you hope that it will work and sometimes the story chooses you, then you don’t have a choice but to do the story. This is one of those stories that chooses you.

So it wasn’t based on true life stories?

When Ben Chiadika, Shola Osofisan and I came together and started our company, Unbroken Partnership, we agreed that we’ll tell stories as film makers but we want to tell stories that will make a change, that will impact people’s lives. “We didn’t have in mind to make a movie about mental health. Infact nobody thinks about that. When Ben brought up the idea, by the time Shola sat down and started writing, it hit us that look, this is something we have to talk about. Because it’s something that we’ve grown so used to hiding in our culture, it becomes a bigger issue than it needs to be.

One would have thought that the best way to handle this sort of issue is through direct awareness campaign,  why film?

In deciding to do this movie we knew we had to treat the story in a way that it appeals enough to people that they want to come and watch it. Nobody wants to watch a movie and be sad. Nobody wants to come with problems and leave the same way. We’ve made it that people will learn something. We’re partnering with people that deal with this issue. Olaama Care Foundation is an NGO based here in Lagos and the CEO was here at the press conference. They are one of our sponsors, also there’s a psychiatric facility in Ikorodu Lagos know as The Retreat which is a private owned psychiatric facility in Nigeria.  They’re also one of our sponsors.  Yes, what we’ve done is that we’ve reached out to people who know more about the issue than we do because we are film makers. We are also reaching out to people who are dealing with it this is where Chioma Nwosu the CEO of Olaama Care Foundation comes in. So together with our media partner, DAAR Communications we are making sure that the story goes round and even beyond the shores of the country.

How do you ensure that issues relating to mental health is exhausted since the story isn’t based on experience?

We had three psychiatrists and two psychologists who read the script, just so that they will confirm that what has been written is correct. This movie is well researched to avoid misinformng people, at the same time we don’t want to give people the impression that mental issue is not a big deal, it is a big deal. So, we’re treating it very carefully making sure that people understand that it is a serious topic worth talking about and addressing.“When you talk about mental health people think it’s just about the mad man on-the street. Some women wake up in the morning after childbirth only for you to discover that they can’t carry or breast feed their babies because of depression. A major persentage of new mothers suffer post parton depression and sometimes the reason is not known especially in Nigeria where we don’t talk feelings. I live in Atlanta, Shola lives in  New Jersey and I think it has helped us look at this in a different way.  But before anything, I am a Nigerian. It doesn’t matter where I live. Anything that happens to a Nigerian has happened to me before.  So, we are not detached from what’s happening in Nigeria.

When exactly is the release date?

Production of the movie is on and the anticipated release date is Easter 2019. Some people are saying the movie has not been recorded yet and we have started making noise. This is not just a movie. I don’t want to make a movie that people will watch and say oh this movie sweet oo. We want a discussion to be started. Communication, let people begin to talk about it now. By the time we get to the release date, there would have been enough conversation around it.

Is this your first movie?

Well this is my first feature movie in Nigeria as well as the first movie that our company, Unbroken Partnership would be making. More will be coming and anything coming from us will be impactful.“ Shola and I produced a movie 10 years ago in the US titled “Missing in America”. It was released in US. We’ve worked together on a couple of projects like the “New Village Headmaster”. “For us,  this is what’s next. This movie will make people sit up.

What’s your thoughts about Nollywood?

You see, the thing about Nollywood is that my passion is making a movie and telling a story. Getting recognition is not important. I’m still who I am. If you don’t know me but talk about my movie, that’s okay.

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