It’s All In Your Head
Free The Mind: Can You Rewire The Brain Just By Taking A Breath?
A film by Phie Ambo
Offers Trauma Victims Hope
North American Premiere at Hot Docs
Director Phie Ambo will be in Toronto for the duration of Hot Docs.
Special guest Dr. Richard Davidson will be in Toronto May 2 only, in the afternoon.
The brain is a wondrous instrument. But it has a dark side. Look no further than the statistics that 22 U.S. veteran soldiers commit suicide every day.
Phie Ambo’s Free The Mind: Can You Rewire The Brain Just By Taking A Breath? shows pathologies like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ADHD and anxiety being tackled directly, while painting a wide-eyed picture of the organ responsible, a mysterious, unimaginably complex chemical computer with potential that we’ve only begun to explore.
Inspired by her own bout of panic attacks years earlier – treated with meditation rather than medication – the eclectic Danish filmmaker aimed her camera at the works of University of Wisconsin scholar Richard Davidson, the founder of The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, and three of his case studies.
They were: Steve and Rich, two American Iraq/Afghanistan War veterans, both of whom were plagued with painful nightmares and insomnia, fueled by attacks of conscience over what they’d seen and done while serving their country, and Will, a five-year-old, plagued with anxiety and ADHD.
The filmed results of the breathing exercise/mindfulness meditation and yoga regimen will be controversial – certain to be debated and scrutinized by a medical establishment that has not been able to deal effectively with either trauma or learning disabilities. And there is inherent drama in a procedure that takes war veterans and takes them deep into the memories their brains have elected to bury.
But a traumatic environment like a battlefield effectively rewires the brain, Ambo says. And the only “cure” is to rewire it non-invasively.
“We are entering a new era,” says director Ambo. “Constantly, new fundamental questions are raised about who we are as human beings. The more questions asked, the more obvious it is to me how many things we still don’t understand. I find that very inspiring!”
Free The Mind is the second film of Ambo’s trilogy on the human mind. The first, Mechanical Love (2007) about man’s relationship to robots, questions what is a feeling and how is it manifested in the mind and the body. “Characteristic for both films is their location in the field where science meets reality, where scientists use question marks instead of dots,” she says.
“In Free The Mind the central questions are: ‘What is a thought and how does it create a manifestation in the body?’ and ‘Can we make a physical change of the brain only by the power of thoughts?’”
Other previous works by Ambo include Gambler (2006), which examined the conflicted personality of then lesser-known director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) and Family (2001) winner of the Joris Ivens Award, at IDFA, Amsterdam.
Produced by Sigrid Dyekjaer, Co-Produced by Kaarle Aho, Edited by Marion Tuor, Music Composed by Johann Johannsson. Produced by Danish Documentary Production with the support from the Danish Film Institute, DR Broadcast Corporation, Norkisk Film & TV Fond, YLE, Finnish Film Institute and Media.