Filmmaker Jono Oliver hopes “Home” will strike a chord with social workers
Jono Oliver, writer and director of the award-winning film “Home,” hopes social workers will catch the movie now that is more widely available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and on-demand on cable.
Oliver says “Home,” which follows a New York City man living with mental illness, shows the important services social workers and other mental health care providers give to clients.
“As social workers I hope it would confirm the work that social workers do is important,” said Oliver, who is the child of social workers. “It validates a lot of work that mental health workers do.”
In the film Jack Hall (actor Gbenga Akinnagbe from “The Wire” and “Nurse Jackie) is a courier living with a mental illness who resides in a group home.
Jack is desperate to get his own apartment so he can rebuild a relationship with his son John (actor Judah Bellamy). However, Jack has committed violent acts in the past and his ex-wife, family and doctors worry he is too emotionally fragile to live outside a group home.
Oliver said he wanted to show in the film that people living with mental illness are just normal people dealing with unique challenges. “Everybody is going through something just on a different level,” he said.
And although media portrayals of mental illness are improving there is still a stigma surrounding mental illnesses, Oliver said.
He hopes showing Jack’s struggles in the film will educate viewers about mental illness without being too preachy.
“Labels are necessary clinically but in dealing with the world everybody wants to be happy,” Oliver said.
Oliver researched the film by visiting psychiatric emergency rooms and group homes and doing a lot of reading, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV and various newspaper articles.
A psychiatric nurse named Doreen Gallagher was also invaluable in connecting Oliver with members of the mental health services community.
Oliver wanted to make a film that was entertaining and engaging but also one that the audience would believe, especially people such as social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists who work intimately with people living with mental illnesses.
His attention to detail worked. “Home” recently won a Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Voice Award.
The National Association of Social Workers is a partner in the Voice Awards, which go to films and TV shows that help educate the pubic about mental illness or substance abuse issues.
“Home” won a Prism Award, which also go to films that accurately depict mental illness and substance abuse, and awards at the San Francisco Black Film Festival, Dances with Film, the Sacramento Film and Music Festival, and the Bahamas International Film Festival.
Jono Oliver has also been nominated for an NAACP image award for best directing along with “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen, director Lee Daniels of “The Butler,” Malcolm D. Lee of “The Best Man Holiday,” and Justin Chadwick of “Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom.”
Oliver, 48, was raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn by John Oliver, a social worker who was clinical director of the Bushwick branch of Brooklyn Psychiatric Centers, and Vivian Oliver, a school social worker.
Oliver, who is first assistant director on the TV crime drama Blue Bloods on CBS, said he had great parents. He said he was also raised in the pre-helicopter parent era when children were given more freedom to go out and play and explore their communities, which has helped shape his approach to filmmaking.
Although his parents didn’t talk much about happened on the job Oliver said their profession imparts a valuable lesson that society should learn.
“I think social work teaches – I don’t want to say compassion – but it lets you see people’s potential,” he said. “And you realize that everyone has it in them they just may need a little help.”
Social workers help clients overcome mental illness. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Mind and Spirit website.
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