JOINT WINNER OF THE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES BROADCAST MEDIA AWARD
THE SUNNYBOY was joint winner of The Mental Health Services Broadcast Media Award.
Director Kaye Harrison had the great honour of receiving the award from Professor Fiona Stanley at the TheMHS Conference in Perth, August 26 2014.
Dr Jodi Brooks abstract of academic paper: Empathetic spectatorship, The Sunnyboy & the sibling (Feb 2014)
Empathetic spectatorship, The Sunnyboy, and the sibling (Dr Jodi Brooks)
Kaye Harrison’s documentary The Sunnyboy (2013) has been critically acclaimed for its intimate and accessible portrayal of living with schizophrenia. The film tells the story of Jeremy Oxley, lead singer of the celebrated 1980s band The Sunnyboys, and his experience of living with mental illness for the last thirty years. Moving across and between observational mode (the filmmaker spent a few years filming material of and with Oxley for the film) and archival footage (home movies and footage of the band in its heyday and in its recent reformations), the film works in largely familiar territory in terms of its form. But while the film deploys a familiar documentary form in terms of structure and mode, it works on somewhat different ground in terms of how it addresses the viewer. In this paper I will draw on Lisa Cartwright’s radical rethinking of spectatorship and identification in her book Moral Spectatorship and Belinda Smaill’s work on documentary and emotions to explore the forms of empathetic spectatorship that this film enables. I will argue that it is through the film’s attentiveness to the forms of presence and withdrawal, blindness and insights, losses and gains that can underlie forms of mental illness and the ways it depicts their co-presence that the film offers its most interesting insights into lived experiences of mental illness. I develop this argument through two lines – firstly through the film’s screening contexts and forums (including its screening prior to a performance of the reconstituted band at the Vivid Festival) and secondly, through the ways it depicts and engages with the pasts, presents, and imagined futures of both its various subjects and its viewers. While much of the film’s promotional material has foregrounded the key role of wife Mary in Jeremy’s re-emergence into music and a liveable life with others (and in this respect the film often tells its story as one of healing through romantic love) in this paper I turn instead to the film’s depiction of the relationship between Jeremy and his brother (and fellow Sunnyboy Peter Oxley) in its complex engagement with and solicitation of forms of empathetic spectatorship.
Dr Jodi Brooks, a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies in the School of Arts & Media, University of New South Wales.
Jodie’s primary research has been in the areas of theories of film time, spectatorship, and film performance, and she is currently working on a project on performing children.
Jodi’s work has appeared in a range of journals including Screen, Continuum, and Screening the Past and in edited collections such as Figuring Age (ed. Kathleen Woodward) Aural Cultures (ed. Jim Drobnick) and Off Beat: Pluralizing Rhythm (eds. Jen Hein Hoogstad and Birgitte Stougaard Pedersen). She recently co-edited a special issue of Screening the Past on “untimely cinema” with Therese Davis (Monash).
PROF PAT MCGORRY (2010 AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR) ON THE SUNNYBOY (NOV)
“The SUNNYBOY is quite simply the best, most sensitive and compelling communication I have ever seen of schizophrenia and psychosis and beautifully illustrates everything that the public and indeed the health system and mental health professionals need to understand. From the need for early diagnosis and recognition, to the need for a stigma-free and sophisticated way to engage people from the onset of distress and alienation, through the need for extremely careful use of medication balanced with expert psychosocial care, and the essential need for all relatives (especially parents and siblings) to be empowered and consistently supported, plus the need for physical health to be safeguarded. Finally the key lesson is that the person is still in there waiting to be revived and nurtured. For this the film shows how crucial it is that there is a Mary-like person or people in the lives of the sufferer to provide tenderness, patience and love as the scaffolding for recovery. Mental health professionals can be inspired to go to another level in their vocations and be freed up to show a lot more heart, personal strength and energy, to add to their technical and professional skills. The mental health system needs a radical overhaul and substantially greater investment. Thank you so much to Kaye Harrison and her wonderful colleagues and to Jeremy and his family for creating this uniquely moving and inspirational film!”
Official Selection: Sydney Film Festival 2013
Finalist: 2013 Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize
Official Selection: Vivid Sydney 2013
2013 Melbourne International Film Festival
2013 Walkley Documentary Award Longlist
Nominee: 2014 ADG Best Direction of Documentary Feature
Official Selection: Council on Social Work Education Festival USA 2014
Winner: TheMHS Broadcast Media Award 2014