Tribute

Tribute: American cinematographer Haskell Wexler

Wexler, who has died at 93, shot and directed several features and documentaries, including ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Introduction to the Enemy’.

Celebrated American cinematographer Haskell Wexler has died in his sleep at the age of 93. His rich body of work includes documentaries and features as well as his own films. A political activist and a key figure of the American counter-culture movement, Wexler stacked up a series of credits on acclaimed movies between the 1960s and ’80s, including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, In The Heat of the Night, Coming Home, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Thomas Crown Affair as well as several documentaries such as Interviews with My Lai Veterans (1971) and Introduction to the Enemy (1974).

In 2004, Wexler’s son, Mark turned the camera on his father for a personal documentary that explores the great man’s craft and his views on his films and his family. “I am his son, the son of a famous father and I have spent much of my adult life struggling to step out from under the shadow of that fame,” Mark Wexler says in Tell Them Who You Are.

Here are a few of Wexler’s key works.

America America (1963) Often cited as Wexler’s first successful mainstream movie, directed by Elia Kazan and featuring the hardscrabble journey of Greek immigrants to the land of liberty and freedom. Wexler’s keen eye for details as well as capturing the rhythms of the crowds won him acclaim and set up him up as one of the most talented cinematographers in the business.

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Medium Cool (1966) Wexler’s debut movie, which he also wrote, follows a television reporter who is covering a national convention organised by the Democratic Party. Its use of documentary-style camerawork and combination of staged and actual footage won Wexler further acclaim and inspired the BBC documentary Look Out Haskell, It's Real: The Making of Medium Cool.

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Bound For Glory (1976) This biographical movie about the American folk singer Woody Guthrie is cited as the first ever production to use the Steadicam mount, which enables smooth camera movements.

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Colors (1988) Dennis Hopper’s unconventional police procedural captures the messiness of gang wars in Los Angeles. Robert Duvall and Sean Penn are the buddies in uniform trying, and often failing, to keep the order on the streets.

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Bus Rider Union (2000) Wexler kept shooting documentaries alongside features. Here is a film from 2000, which he co-directed, and which chronicles the attempts by civil rights activists to bring the mass transport system to the racially divided inner cities of Los Angeles.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.