Leaders & Followers in Times of Crisis
Celebrates the life and work of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Vamik Volkan, a psychiatrist who brings enemy groups together for dialogue in traumatized areas of the globe.
Directed by Molly Castelloe
Produced by Molly Castelloe, Kurt Ossenfort, A. Dean Bell
Associate Producers: A. Dean Bell, Kurt Ossenfort
Cinematography: Felix Andrews, Kurt Ossenfort
Editor: David Bartner, Molly Castelloe
Original Music: Giovanni Spinelli
An Aesthetic Edge Production
BLIND TRUST celebrates the life and work of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Vamik Volkan, a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has spent over four decades bringing enemy groups together in areas of conflict all over the world.
"Examines Dr. Volkan's key insight that collective trauma underlies many of today's most intractable civil wars and international conflicts." David Skidmore, Prof. Politics, Drake Univ
BLIND TRUST traces Dr. Volkan's life journey from his birthplace on the ethnically divided island of Cyprus to his development of a model of diplomacy based on the emotional life of nations.
This look into his pioneering fieldwork and peace-building missions in Europe, the Middle East, and the US sheds light on how large-group identity and shared trauma can both unite us and divide us for generations.
This film was originally titled Vamik's Room.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2021
Copyright Date: 2021
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-69-0
"An amazing, moving, accessible film about the unconscious dynamics, large group identities, and shared trauma that lie behind political movements."
Ed Shapiro, Professor of Psychiatry, Clinical Professor, Yale Child Study Center, Yale University
"An excellent, haunting, and profound film. Dr. Volkan's direct experiences with violent, deeply divided societies and psychiatric training has provided him with unique insights into the historical trauma and tribalism that perpetuates misery in so many of these lands. He provides a language for understanding their more hidden dynamics and a sense of hope and possibility in places where they are rare commodities. A must see for all students of conflict and human nature."
Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education, Director of the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, Columbia University, Author, The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization
"Every diplomat and diplomat-in-training should see this film."
Howard Stein, Professor Emeritus of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma, Poet Laureate, High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology
"Blind Trust examines Dr. Vamik Volkan's key insight that collective trauma underlies many of today's most intractable civil wars and international conflicts. The activation of collective grievances by populist and authoritarian political leaders can undermine democracy and promote violence. Understanding the collective psychology of communal conflict and its political effects is a key prerequisite for diplomacy and peacemaking. Blind Trust illustrates these ideas through real world examples, including Volkan's own on-the-ground work in Estonia and Georgia. An important resource for instructors and students of international relations."
David Skidmore, Professor of Politics, Drake University, Author, The Unilateralist Temptation in American Foreign Policy
"An enthralling portrait of a remarkable humanitarian who deploys a cosmopolitan psychoanalysis to give new language and cure to the quintessential ailment of our time - the alchemical role of individual, ethnic, and national narcissism in fostering hatred and sectarian violence."
Robert Stam, University Professor of Cinema Studies, New York University
"The recent emergence of seemingly irrational large group conflict in the world is, in truth, an oft-repeated ancient story of misunderstood yet deadly shared rage and emotion. The life's work of a professor who has lived within these dangerous environments provides an essential understanding that shines a light on dark processes. With light comes hope for resolution and transformation. Viewers of Blind Trust will come away with a defined appreciation that HOW we understand and deal with group histories will certainly determine our futures."
Gregory Saathoff, Professor, Public Health Sciences and Emergency Medicine, University of Virginia
"Both beginners in the field of trauma psychology and conflict resolution and experienced professionals will get much from watching this film...An excellent presentation as part of trauma psychology education."
Renate Gronvold Bugge, psychologist and consultant, The Red Cross and Norwegian Peoples' Aid
"One hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud wrote Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; his inaugural attempt to describe how mass psychology could be understood. In the last fifty years, Vamik Volkan, a seasoned psychoanalyst, has systematically brought together historians, diplomats, political leaders, and others to understand large group identities and fractured communities - in doing so, he has created a mature praxis for assessing psychologically-charged external fields of reference that fold into shared mental representations of defeat and complex experiences of triumph. Interdisciplinary teams can now work together to overturn insidious, deeply rooted national narratives of hate, conscious and unconscious phantasies of enemies and allies, and memories of loss and defeat that impede a nation's capacity to mourn, reconfigure, and rebuild itself."
Maurice Apprey, Professor of Psychiatry, Dean of African-American Affairs, University of
"A truly beautiful piece of film art...A cinematic triumph."
Joseph Montville, former diplomat, Director of Healing Historical Memory, The Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution
"Drawing on a mix of historical footage and interviews with Professor Vamik Volkan and trauma survivors, this documentary introduces viewers to the roles played by chosen traumas and large group identities in processes of conflict resolution, reconciliation, and healing. Using examples from conflicts in places including Serbia, Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and the former Soviet Union, Blind Trust helps identify the importance of psychology."
Maia Hallward, Professor of Middle East Politics, Kennesaw State University, Editor, Journal of Peacebuilding and Development
"One can see in this film a special aura around this man who has managed to witness the worst of humanity yet bring faith and love to the saddest situation."
Ann Bennett Mix, Founder, American WWII Orphans Network
"Timely...The documentary walks the viewer through many of its subject's central theoretical ideas and ethnographic observations, which are certainly worthy of engaging and reexamining during this period of global unrest, regression toward ahistorical pseudo-nativism, and a frightening trend in which authoritarian forms of governance are making gains in countries around the globe."
Matthew Steinfeld, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association
"Thought-provoking...In these polarized times we would all do well to spend more time thinking ourselves out of our own bubbles; we would all profit from understanding the personal histories and slow-burn grievances that shape our own sense of Us and Them."
Elizabeth Pisani, The Lancet
"An artistically rich and arresting documentary...Castelloe's documentary highlights Vamik Volkan's emphasis on continued dialogue and outreach to connect, to listen, and to understand...Castelloe has done a masterful job metabolizing, synthesizing and integrating an enormous body of complex work into an artistic expression. Both in language and in her artistic choices she has made Vamik Volkan's formulations accessible to all who are interested in humanity, loss and conflict. Accessibility is an essential gift of art. "
Anne Brantley Segall, Psychoanalytic Social Work
"Sensitive and informative...An important contribution to the understanding of conflict and crisis on different levels of society...The message is the importance of understanding and bilateral recognition when looking for conflict solutions, as well as focusing on the impact of large-group identity on many different levels, especially when working with diplomacy in conflict areas. Both beginners in the field of trauma psychology and conflict solution and experienced professionals will get much from watching this movie and it would make an excellent presentation as part of trauma psychology education."
Renate Gronvold Bugge, Organisational and Social Dynamics
"The creation of this film...could not come at a more propitious moment...By applying psychodynamic principles to the broader realm of large groups, Volkan is pointing the way toward a possible survival. And the filmmaker Molly Castelloe has enhanced that work."
Carl Jacobs, News and Reviews, The National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis
|Reduced rates for activist and grassroots groups. Please inquire.
DVD included English SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
Awards and Festivals
Winner, Gradiva Award, National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis
Winner, Sydney Halpern Award, Clio's Psyche Journal
Global Health Film Festival
Montreal Independent Film Festival
New Haven Documentary Film Festival
The North Carolina Film Festival
Middle Eastern Studies
Migration and Refugees
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"Vamik Volkan is truly un homme extraordinaire!...The documentary...carries an inspirational admonition for psychoanalysts to give thought to what we might do to help relieve human suffering and promote human well-being beyond the confines of our consulting rooms. As such, it is a very welcome contribution to our profession."
Martin A. Silverman, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly
"With many existing local, national, and international group and societal conflicts, there is a current need for a broader audience to learn about and consider Volkan's work in an effort for peace...All peacemakers, particularly those with backgrounds in psychology, can learn from and benefit from Volkan's ideas that are clearly portrayed in this film in a compelling manner."
Stephanie Miodus, The Peace Psychologist
"A film that suggests there is no conflict on earth that cannot be unlocked and calmed down, if combatants and victims can learn to mourn."
Blaine Harden, The Washington Post's former bureau chief in Europe, Asia and Africa
"Beautifully crafted...A shining gem of artistic integrity, Blind Trust offers us not only an evocative visual montage of the troubled spots across the globe but also provides us with a forceful reminder of our shared humanity...The informative blood of Volkan's 'large group psychology' flows through the purposive veins of this visually rich, superbly edited, and deftly directed film!"
Salman Akhtar, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Thomas Jefferson Medical College