Head Cold

Head Cold

Release date:


Running time:

92 minutes


Available on DVD

Closed Captioned:


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  • Audience level:
  • Elementary School
  • Middle School
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  • General

English, German and Hungarian with English subtitles

A talented filmmaker turns the camera on herself to document a lengthy struggle with an illness, initially diagnosed as a form of schizophrenia. She has to overcome the taboo of talking about it—“Who wants to declare themselves a lunatic?” she asks. At times, she even questions whether her intellectual analysis is real or simply an outcome of the condition. After a lengthy period of working with the medical system, she emerges to lead a productive life.

Ironically, this very achievement confuses many people, particularly in North America. It points to a need for education to address misconceptions about mental health. Head Cold is a courageous film that can help in the fight against stigmatization—a story of trust, caring and hope.


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Director's Comment

Head Cold is an experimental long-term observation. By exposing myself to the film as a process, I allow a direct insight into the struggles that I have experienced due to the diagnoses and resultant stigmatization. The subjective approach to the topic seems necessary to me, even if it was initially very difficult for me to "out" myself. The position that I take is that of both how I live with and how I have adjusted to the illness.

Head Cold is an autobiographical work that emerges in several stages. The form and content of the experiment arises from my method of working, which is based upon expansive collecting and careful probing. The actual work on the project began in the summer of 2001 with an initial project outline: the MiniDV archive of materials consisting of the self-interviews, the conversations held with me, and the video letters from my family and friends began as of spring 2002. Head Cold is a biographical narrative, and my story––as both an incentive and an example in one––offers an introduction to the complex topic.

People with the illness are branded and tossed aside. They usually live a highly marginalized life on early retirement pensions or social benefits, and only in the rarest of cases can they pursue regular employment. Life is torn apart by frequent periods of hospitalization and convalescence. The crises are often followed by depressions that are almost as bad as the crises themselves because they last even longer. The self-esteem is battered and the eternal conflicts with the required medications and the given side-effects–-which substantially reduce the quality of life––are grueling.

When I look at the self-interviews, I discover something remarkable: The persistent attempt, over the years, to truly convey what it means to endure and live this difficult illness. That which I demanded from myself was worth it. It is an unsparing gaze lacking all voyeurism. I chose the interview format to enable the formation of a highly impressive, personal picture through these narratives. The story is completed by that which is not said and the commentary from external sources such as the video letters.

For the specific target groups––the next of kin, the afflicted, therapists and doctors––this film is of a profound importance and should lead to a highly committed and controversial discussion regarding my position as a "compliant"* patient. But the film goes beyond the process of dealing with a psychotic disorder from a personal point of view. It also show the life––the path of life––of a freelance artist in midlife, full of doubt about why everything came to be as it did.

The central issues of the film revolve around the questions of taking responsibility of one's own life, of one's illness, and of solely taking charge in general. It is always about the great isolation in which I find myself, and the desire to share the responsibility. These levels of the film make it both universal and enthralling. The film poses questions asked by many women my age, including those that do not have to struggle with the stigma of being psychologically ill.

Gamma Bak


* "Compliance" refers to when the patient complies with the drug therapy and regularly goes to the psychiatrist as prescribed and does not arbitrarily change, for example, the dosage or medication without prior medical consultation.

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