New Original Docuseries From Aussie Filmmaker Shines Unique Personal Light On Depression
A Brisbane-based filmmaker is releasing a reality docuseries about his struggles with depression and the challenges of caring for his mother, who has paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, free on YouTube on October 8th – two days before World Mental Health Day October 10th.)
Jonathan Epiha self-funded the series about his life, also serving as writer, director, producer and editor. The result is an intimate, revealing portrait of a man struggling to face his past, deal with an uncertain future, and ultimately find an answer for the hardest of questions – why me?
“I wanted to create something beautiful, positive and useful from something so negative and debilitating,” says Epiha.” You could say I created this series as an act of revenge – depression isolated me, making me want to hide in shame and suffer alone. I’m trying to the do the exact opposite with this film – turning outward, hoping my story will connect with people, and inspire, educate and provide hope for those who need it.”
Epiha had a hardscrabble upbringing. Born in New Zealand to an Australian mother and Maori father, Jon was the second-youngest of five boys and grew up on the edge of poverty in a ‘masculine culture’ where sharing your feelings was not encouraged, and often ridiculed. When his parent’s marriage fell apart, and his mother and eldest brother both started showing signs of mental illness, Epiha was just 12 years old.
His series, ‘Where’s Jonny?’ features 14 short episodes (13-15 minutes long), each dealing with a different pivotal movement in Epiha’s life; it’s a remarkable accomplishment for a filmmaker who first picked up a camera just one year ago. “I had the idea before I knew how to use a camera, and I couldn’t afford film school, so the whole thing was a learning process,” Epiha says. He eventually learned his craft by filming practically everything in his life – including his sessions with a therapist, which feature prominently in the series.
“My goal wasn’t to become a filmmaker; it was just to tell this story,” he says. “But I was so naïve about how ambitious this project was – luck played a big role in how things turned out. For example, one day, I just flew to New Zealand and knocked on the door of my childhood home – and it turned out to be an incredible adventure. I got so much more than I’d hoped from it. Those kinds of things you can’t plan for.”
And how is Epiha doing now? “I know depression will always be lurking, but these days I win more than I lose – and I feel ready to face my fears and tell my truth. If just one person feels less alone after seeing my story, I’ve made something positive come out of all those years I suffered alone.”
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