DER Documentary

The Bird Dancer

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From the Afflictions: Culture and Mental Illness in Indonesia series
by Robert Lemelson
color, 40 min, 2010

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The Bird Dancer explores a young woman's struggle with her odd movements and behaviors, and how these are interpreted and understood by her family and community.

The film follows the life of Gusti Ayu Suartini, a young Balinese woman with Tourette's Syndrome, as she struggles to create a life for herself while coping with a society who doesn't understand her disease, doctors with no cures, and a family that rejects her. Inexplicable to her community in rural Bali, Gusti's severe tics elicited grave concern from herself and her family, significantly affecting both the daily and the long-term course of her life.

Gusti has spent many years struggling to overcome the stigma and suffering that has resulted not primarily from her illness, but from the web of cultural significance spun around it in the context of Balinese values and belief, social and familial structure, and health care practices. She will have to use all her strength and courage to find her place in society free from shame and humiliation.

This film is also available as part of the set Afflictions Volume 2: Neuropsychiatric Disorders.

Related Resources
Study guide (PDF)

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Award of Excellence, Best Shorts, 2012
Fallbrook Film Festival, Fallbrook, CA, 2013
Offshoot Film Festival, Fayetteville, AK, 2012

Other films in the Afflictions series
Family Victim
Shadows & Illuminations
Kites and Monsters
Memory of My Face
Ritual Burdens

Recommended Reading
"Neuropsychiatric Disorders and Traditional Healing in Indonesia: The Question of Efficacy" by Lemelson, R. in Maldonado, M. ed. Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers: Unwitting Partners in Global Mental Health. London, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

"Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Bali: The Cultural Shaping of a Neuropsychiatric Disorder." Lemelson, R. Transcultural Psychiatry. 4(30) 377-408, 2003

"Strange Maladies". Lemelson, R. December 2001 Psychology Today

"Traditional Healing and it's Discontents: Efficacy and Traditional Therapies of Neuropsychiatric Disorders in Bali". Lemelson R. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 18(1): 48-76, 2004

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