What’s eating my mind?
After being diagnosed bipolar, Noella quit film school and returned to Kenya. She films herself and her family as they try to navigate this. She joins a support group, where she meets Nick who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia while studying to be a priest in Colombia. The group gives Noella community and escalating complications that she navigates maintaining her mental health.
Noella Luka is a filmmaker who dreamed of living and working abroad. That dream came to an end when she was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder while at film school in the U.S. Now back in Kenya, where mental health issues are usually taboo, Noella’s been recollecting, recording what she can remember, trying to shine a light on what happened to her and why. But doing so makes everyone feel uncomfortable, including herself, so she has to figure out how to talk to her family, friends, and community. How come nobody noticed anything or did they, and they didn’t want to talk about it? Her family tries to be supportive, but they are unsure of what this means. It feels like she has to change everything, including her friends. Her old friends can’t understand what she is going through. How can they? She then joins a support group, where she meets Nick, he relocates back home from Columbia where he was on a journey to become a catholic priest. The promise of wealth in a foreign land, culture shock, disappointment about his life’s path, and discrimination as a foreigner saw him question his decision to become a priest. He was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Back home, Nick is trying to fit in a world that constantly questions his life choices. His closest family is his grandma and sister, sister still has faith that he will thrive in life. Nick exposes the difference in life when one doesn’t have any support system. When Nick disappears, Noella has to try to help the family find him. This also takes a toll on her, and after her mother becomes unwell, she finds herself amidst a storm. How does she survive this?
Noella Luka is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and mental health advocate based in Nairobi. Her work has been recognized and screened in Africa, Europe and North America. Noella has experience in TV and radio as a producer and director for various Kenyan shows. She directed the multiple award-winning documentary Vanishing Vultures screened at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, currently on V.O.D at Demand Africa and in 2019 featured at MIPCOM TV market, Cannes.
One day I was in film school in a foreign land, and shortly after, I was in a psychiatric ward. Two extremes that I decided to pursue. My diagnosis of unspecified bipolar disorder was unexpected and confusing. The lived reality of migration is that your Mental Health will be affected. What’s Eating my Mind speaks to that and questions why as a society, we didn’t open up about it sooner? As a Director, I had to be vulnerable, which makes me uncomfortable, yet, that’s the only way the audience gets to experience our world. Reflection is an essential part of progress, so I came back home to Kenya. At home, I had to grapple with traditions. In Africa, mental illness has often been a taboo subject, with many associating it with witchcraft or a condition that needs prayers to chase away evil spirits. The stereotypes that come with the condition have people like me labeled as “mad man or crazy.” Worse still, society mostly seems to recognize people with mental illness only when they are in dire need of help. But not for the right reasons-again to judge and blame. While making this film, I had questions and quickly learned not everyone is as curious as I was. I found a community where I asked more questions. This story has had me turn the camera on myself, my family, and friends, most of whom question why I came back home. It explores the curiosity I have as a filmmaker trying to find their voice, often trying to grasp a conversation that, for the longest time, has been silenced or, better said, behind closed doors. I chose to Direct this film because I quickly learned that having a mental illness, I had no place in society and that my fate was somehow sealed. So I turned my curiosity to this ‘thing’ that everyone seemed to know about but never really tried to unravel or simply did not know-how. This film has pushed me and challenged me. It has helped give a voice to conversations previously preserved for scientific experts. If you are as curious about Mental Health as I am, let’s talk about it.
Sam Soko is a film director, producer and editor based in Nairobi who seeks out stories that enable him to engage in socio- political spaces. His work on civic literacy projects in music, non-fiction and fiction has allowed him to connect with artists around the world. He is co-founder of LBx Africa, a Kenyan production company that service-produced the 2018 Oscar- nominated short fiction film Watu Wote. Soko’s first feature documentary project Softie, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, winning a special jury prize for editing. He is an outspoken defender of freedom of expression and has taken part in global conversations on how to make media matter when the world is on fire. Soko is currently producing features by first-time African directors in Kenya, South Sudan and Zimbabwe, and also co-directing a film following the world’s boldest experiment in universal basic income taking place in Kenya.
Don Edkins is a South African documentary filmmaker and producer based in Cape
Town. He has produced documentary film projects that have been broadcast around
the world, such as Steps for the Future, Why Democracy? and Why Poverty? earning
multiple international awards, including an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, and the
Special Teddy Award at the 63rd Berlinale for Steps for the Future. The Peabody
awarded Why Poverty? Project, with documentary films from 21 countries, was
screened globally by 70 broadcasters. He is Executive Producer of AfriDocs, a free-to-
view VOD platform and broadcast strand across Africa that screens the best African
and international documentary films. He is currently producing a new documentary film
project with African filmmakers across the continent, Generation Africa, around the
theme of migration. He is a mentor for the Berlinale Talents, Durban FilmMart, and
Docs by the Sea in Indonesia, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Tiny Mungwe is a documentary film and arts producer. She currently works at STEPS
(Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects) where she produces Generation
Africa, a pan-African anthology of 25 documentary films from 16 countries in Africa, on
the topic of migration. Mungwe’s films include Akekho uGogo, a 48 minute
documentary about urban youth culture, which screened at several festivals including
the Durban International Film Festival, Apollo Film Festival and DOKANEMA Festival.
Her short film script Evelyn was selected for the National Film and Video Foundation
(NFVF) Women Filmmaker Project and she directed another short film in the program,
Daddy’s Boy. She has written for some of the highest rating South African television
dramas such as Muvhango and Matatiele, and was one of the directors on the series
Uzalo. For several years she worked as a festival organizer and programmer for four
international festivals, namely Time of the Writer, the Durban International Film
Festival, Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival and Poetry Africa. During that time she also worked on the program for Durban FilmMart (the co-production market of the festival) and Talents Durban (a career development program for emerging African filmmakers in partnership with Berlinale Talents). She continues to work as a program curation associate for the Durban FilmMart. She also programmed and curated the city of Durban’s inaugural book and art fair, ARTiculate Africa.