Filmmaker Jono Oliver Brings African American Mental Health to the Screen
The cast of the film Home, which was directed by Jono Oliver.
In recognition of Black History Month and to raise mental health awareness, NAMI Wisconsin will be showing the film Home, the story of an African American man living with a mental health condition who attempts to rebuild his life through courage, hope and strength.
But perhaps most excitingly, Jono Oliver, the writer/director/producer of the film, will be visiting Madison, Wis. all the way from Brooklyn, N.Y. to attend the screening. (NAMI interviewed Jono Oliver in the summer 2014 issue of the Advocate.)
"We are ecstatic that Jono Oliver is willing to make a trip to Madison to join us for the screening!" says Julianne Carbin, Executive Director of NAMI Wisconsin. "His presence is a real draw for many of our community partners who are helping to increase our visibility and reach."
One major goal is to make the event accessible to anyone who wants to attend. Therefore many details were considered including the venue, cost and transportation will hopefully be provided to shuttle people from local shelters. "This event has great potential to reach a diverse audience and we want to take advantage of that, especially during Black History Month."
NAMI Wisconsin is also thrilled about the excitement other community organizations have expressed around the event. After realizing the potential of this event, NAMI Wisconsin reached out other groups like the NAACP, Salvation Army and YWCA for possible partnerships. The positive response we received from other organizations wanting to take part has been overwhelming.
“Our hope is that people associated with these organizations will come to the event and not only see a spectacular movie, but also feel more compelled to start conversations about mental health in their community,” says Carbin.
Community partners for the event include: NAACP Dane County, Madison-Area Urban Ministry, The Salvation Army, Journey Mental Health Center, YWCA, Porchlight Inc., the Road Home and the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups. The event is also being sponsored by Home Savings Bank. The enthusiasm of these organizations has been a step in the right direction to future partnerships and progress within diverse communities.
The inspiring independent film, Home, stars actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, known for his role as Chris Partlow on The Wire. Akinnagbe plays Jack, a man living with schizophrenia whose goal is to move out of the group home where he resides and into a home of his own. In doing so, he hopes to salvage his relationship with his young son, reestablish his life and try to achieve some sense of normalcy. Just a year ago, Oliver found himself up against Academy Award nominee Lee Daniels and Oscar winner Steve McQueen for the directing prize during the NAACP’s annual Image Awards. Home also won a 2014 SAMSHA Voice award, 2014 Prism award for Best Feature Film and has received 14 other festival awards.
Oliver’s intention for the film was to depict people we might not be used to seeing on screen, people we walk past on the street without acknowledging their struggles and what they have to offer the world. He finds inspiration in stories about character challenges that might seem small to some of us—such as getting a new job, asking a person out for a date or finding an apartment.
When asked by NAMI if he intended the film to be a metaphor about life in general, Oliver responded, “Absolutely. Jack’s story in Home is very specific, but we can all relate to having a goal, facing obstacles and doubts and trying to overcome them. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed, but the victory is in trying.”
Colleen Rooney is the PR and events coordinator for NAMI Wisconsin.