RWMFF 2013 Review: Pandi (2013)
“An edited film reveals fragments of a larger story.” This quote narrated by director Maria-Saroka Ponnambalam effectively captures the aura of her deeply personal documentary Pandi. Mental health issues know no boundaries, allowing Ponnambalam to explore the depths of her uncle Pandi. Home videos and interviews with immediate family members chronicles some of the inner thoughts and perceptions held by Pandi, who suffered from what Ponnambalam only knew growing up as a “sickness.” An immigrant from India, Pandi temporarily moved to Canada for some much needed R&R with Ponnambalam’s parents during her childhood. Pandi’s own obession with cinema proves to have been of great influence in Ponnambalam’s life by piquing her interest in filming and storytelling. Yet, Pandi quickly shows how Pandi’s love of film was also the catalyst to his prolonged bipoloar disorder and how his family culturally dealt with it.
Ponnambalam uses an array of home video footage to bring the now deceased Pandi to life by placing audiences in the forefront of her memories of her uncle. His words are revisited through written letters of the past read by Ponnambalam’s aunts, cousins and father who further enlightens veiwers with their commentary on Pandi’s attitude and state of being. Most unique and telling of all was Pandi’s personally written movie script that casted him as the subject of a enlightening, epic story. Also Pandi’s own vision of his surroundings comes to life though personal super 8 video recordings he filmed during his life. Through animation and clever edits, Pandi’s words and vision becomes embellished pushing viewers to feel a direct connection to him despite his overall motives and mindset still existing as a mystery.
What Pandi ultimately does as a film is call into question the current state and affairs of mental health issues around the world. More often than not, mental disorders are wrongfully, or plain out lazily, diagnosed leaving those affected with little knowledge on what their issues may be. Because of this, many suffering from mental disorders are shunned and made to feel like outcasts. The current blind eye to mental health leaves many patients untreated, furthermore leaving their siblings and themsevles unsure of how to treat or react to them. Throughout Pandi, Ponnambalam focuses on how her family only declared Pandi as “sick,” a blanket term that only masks the true problems of a person’s mental health, thus preventing a stimulating environment in which others can reach out.
Pandi doesn’t look to shine a light on bipolar disorder or the cultural stigmatisms against it, although one can find these notions within it’s story. What Pandi does instead is tell an individual story of a beloved person whose mental health slowly wore down his life. Ponnambalam shines a light on Pandi’s own self-awareness and what being sick looked like and felt like to him. Pandi takes bits and pieces of the real man’s life in order to paint a living testament to a now deceased beloved one while showing the joy that person has brought to the family who keeps his memory alive.
Pandi screens as part of the 2013 Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 6:30 pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the festival website.
Watch the Pandi Trailer