Vamik's Room (2020)
Directed by Molly Castelloe, 56 mins
Vamik's Room is about the life of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Vamik Volkan, who grew up as an ethnic minority on the divided island of Cyprus, home for two warring ethnic groups – the Turks and Greeks – and the site of bloody conflict in the 20th century.
After training to be a psychiatrist in Turkey, Vamik emigrated West and worked at racially segregated hospitals in the southern United States. He founded the Center for the Study of Mind & Human Interaction at the University of Virginia and over the next four decades travelled around the globe bringing enemy groups together for dialogue in traumatized areas of the world including Estonia, Latvia, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, Greece and the Middle East.
Based on his fieldwork Vamik created a new vocabulary for group psychology, one based on understanding shared traumas, how they are transmitted to our children, and the important task of collective mourning. What is too hard to mourn is passed onto the next generation and into our monuments, which sheds light on the current controversies erupting over Confederate statues.
The film’s climactic scene dramatizes Slobodan Milošević’s rally at Kosovo, Serbia in 1989, illustrating how destructive leadership uses a nation’s unmourned injury to create “time collapse” and foment enemies in the present.
The process of reparative mourning is told through the central story of Vamik's work with a refugee family forced from their home by war in The Republic of Georgia. He helps this family find hope in their new surroundings – a dilapidated hotel that was previously a luxury resort of their Soviet colonizers. He returns to the refugee camp years later where, out of the ruins, they have created a room for him, Vamik’s Room.
The panel discussion after the screening was moderated by Andrew Jack, Global Education Editor at the Financial Times, in conversation with Molly Castelloe, director Vamik's Room and Dr Michael Diamond, Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Organization Studies, University of Missouri, Columbia. Here's the replay:
Vamik Volkan was not able to join us for the panel discussion but Andrew Jack was able to catch up with him during the film festival - here's their discussion: