Phil Borges is a social documentary photographer and filmmaker. For more than 25 years, he has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures striving to create an understanding of the challenges they face.
His latest documentary CRAZYWISE explores how these cultures see psychological crisis as a positive transformative experience – revealing remarkably effective treatment approaches and a survivor-led movement challenging a mental health system in crisis.
Areas of interest
- Indigenous and tribal cultures
- Gender issues
- Storytelling for social change
- Phil Borges Website
During a quarter-century documenting indigenous cultures, human-rights photographer and filmmaker Phil Borges often saw these cultures identify “psychotic” symptoms as an indicator of shamanic potential. He was intrigued by how differently psychosis is defined and treated in the West.
Through interviews with renowned mental health professionals including Gabor Mate, MD, Robert Whitaker, and Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, Phil explores the growing severity of the mental health crisis in America dominated by biomedical psychiatry.
He discovers a growing movement of professionals and psychiatric survivors who demand alternative treatments that focus on recovery, nurturing social connections, and finding meaning.
When a young person experiences a frightening break from reality, Western experts usually label it a “first-episode psychosis” while many psychologists and cultures define it as a “spiritual awakening”. The documentary CRAZYWISE reveals remarkably effective treatment approaches and a survivor-led movement challenging a mental health system in crisis.
CRAZYWISE follows two young Americans diagnosed with “mental illness.” Adam, 27, suffers devastating side effects from medications before embracing meditation in hopes of recovery. Ekhaya, 32, survives childhood sexual abuse and several suicide attempts before spiritual training to become a traditional South African healer gives her suffering meaning and brings a deeper purpose to her life.
CRAZYWISE doesn’t aim to over-romanticize indigenous wisdom, or completely condemn Western treatment. Not every indigenous person who has a crisis becomes a shaman. And many individuals benefit from Western medications.
However, indigenous peoples’ acceptance of non-ordinary states of consciousness, along with rituals and metaphors that form deep connections to nature, to each other, and to ancestors, is something we can learn from.
CRAZYWISE adds a voice to the growing conversation that believes a psychological crisis can be an opportunity for growth and potentially transformational, not a disease with no cure.
Phil is a Social Documentary Photographer and Filmmaker. For more than 25 years, he has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures striving to create an understanding of the challenges they face. As an experienced public speaker, Phil has lectured at multiple TED talks and conferences. His award-winning books and photographic exhibitions have been seen around the world, he has hosted documentaries for Discovery and National Geographic and directed documentaries on gender issues for organizations such as UN Women, CARE, and ReSurge.
Phil is the founder of Bridges to Understanding, an interactive online classroom that promotes cross-cultural learning between indigenous and American youths.