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Walter Lassally (1926-2017): Award-winning cinematographer who made magic with black-and-white

The German-born Lasally won an Oscar for his camera work in the 1965 classic ‘Zorba the Greek’.

Cinematographer Walter Lassally died in Greece on Monday following complications from surgery. He was 90.

In a career that spanned five decades and over a hundred movies, Lasally shot several acclaimed films, including Tony Richardson’s Academy Award-winning Tom Jones (1963), Zorba the Greek (1965), for which Lasally won an Oscar for best black-and-white cinematography, Merchant-Ivory’s Heat and Dust (1983) and Pakistani arthouse film Jago Hua Savera (1959). Lasally also made an onscreen appearance in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (2013).

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Zorba the Greek (1965).

Born in Berlin with Jewish ancestors, Lasally had to flee to London with his family in 1939. He then quit his studies to become a clapper boy at a studio. He began freelancing as a cameraman after the studio went bankrupt and had become associated with United Kingdom’s Free Cinema movement, which rebelled against film industry’s focus on big money and affluent people, choosing to make low-budget feels depicting social realities.

A chance meeting with Greek director Michael Cacoyannis in 1954 led to a five-film collaboration and some of Lasally’s most acclaimed work. Together, they made A Girl in Black (1956), A Matter of Dignity (1956), Our Last Spring (1960) and Zorba the Greek. The Day the Fish Came Out (1967) was the last film Lasally shot for the director, the only one of the lot that was shot in colour.

In 1965, Lassally shot Cacoyannis’s Zorba the Greek in four different locations in Crete, and fell in love with the island. The film chronicled the story of a young and straitjacketed part English part Greek writer whose life alters when he meets the free-spirited musician Alexis Zorba. Lassally eventually moved to Stavros near the city of Chania in Crete in 1998.

Apart from Richardson, Lassally also collaborated frequently with James Ivory in the 1970s and ’80s. For Ivory, he shot Savages (1972), Wild Party (1975) and The Bostonians (1984) in the US, Autobiography of a Princess (1975) in London, and Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie’s Pictures (1978) and Heat and Dust (1983) in India.

Lassally wrote his autobiography, Itinerant Cameraman. in 1987. Although he began to shoot fewer films in the latter 1980s and 1990s, Lassally remained an active photographer, and headed the camera department of the National Film and Television School in London 1988 to 1992. The last film for which he was credited as cinematographer was Crescent Heart (2001).

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Heat and Dust (1983).
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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.