The Healer and the Psychiatrist


2019 / 74 minutes

Directed by
Mike Poltorak

This film explores the tensions, contradictions, and resonances between traditional and psychiatric treatment in the South Pacific Island group of Vava’u. We meet two main characters: the traditional healer Emeline Lolohea, who treats people affected by spirits, and Dr Mapa Puloka, who is the only local Tongan psychiatrist living on the main island of Tongatapu and well known across the region. Though the two have never met in person, this film creates a dialogue between them on the nature of mental illness and spiritual affliction. For both practitioners, the “psychic” emerges as a spiritual and material space that is anchored in, and experienced through, the body. Their discussion offers challenges and opportunities to help address the growing global mental health crisis.

In the 2021 RAI Film Fest Werbner Award