A new movie, entitled Unbreakable, seeks to extend an ongoing conversation around mental health issues in Nigeria, which was ignited about two decades ago after producer Lola Fani-Kayode’s Mind bending, a celebrated TV drama series, drew the attention of many Nigerians to the dangers of drug addiction, especially among the youth.
Written by Sola Osofisan, directed by Ben Chiadika and produced by Buky Campbell, Unbreakable is a captivating story with unexpected twists and turns, which explores the power of love in the lives of a mentally ill married woman and her helpless husband.
Starring the likes of Richard Mofe-Damijo, O.C. Ukeje, Bimbo Manuel, Ebele Okaro, John Dumelo, Uche Macauley and Wendy Lawal, to mention a few, the movie also seeks to correct certain wrong notions about mental illness often held among Nigerians.
Disclosing that Unbreakable, which was conceived in the United States where he is based, had to be shot in Nigeria for certain reasons, Osofisan told our correspondent, “There are some stories that you want to tell and you realise that they belong in this society. You tell yourself that this is where the issues addressed in the story are prevalent. Then you want to come home and tell the story. I needed to come home and tell the story of Unbreakable.”
The writer also frowned at the content and quality of past Nollywood films that addressed mental health issues, saying that a good percentage of the stories told were taken from seriously debatable perspectives.
He said, “You tell a basic mental health story and what you hear is that all it takes to heal somebody is prayers or consulting a herbalist or witch doctor somewhere or you carry some pots around the middle of the night and so on.
“These are just very basic medical issues that, if they are addressed properly, can be cured. One is interested not only in telling such a story, but also in elevating the discourse and starting a conversation about this issue, so that we stop focusing on the supernatural aspect and look closely at what is going on with grandma who is in the bedroom, or mum who is locked up somewhere in the backyard, and get her help.”
Mental illness is arguably one of the most misunderstood medical challenges facing the Nigerian society today. Apart from treating the subject as a taboo, many families often prefer to chain up the mentally ill and hand them to traditional healers or spiritualists in the hope that that a miraculous healing would take place.
One is interested not only in telling such a story, but also in elevating the discourse and starting a conversation about this issue
Explaining why Unbreakable aims at confronting the cultural issues affecting the approach to mental health issues in the country, Osofisan said, “Although there are mental health issues everywhere, this society is where the answer to the problems in Unbreakable lies. We can take it from here to the rest of Africa and beyond.
“In most other parts of the world, especially in the West, these things are regarded as medical issues and the afflicted are given the kind of attention they need. Here in Africa, we throw them out in the streets. They are all over the place, sitting by the roadside and eating trash. It doesn’t have to be like that.”