The director and star of a new film about an aspiring mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter with multiple personality disorder has said he hopes to shine a light on mental health issues in the criminal justice system.
Cassius Corrigan said he was inspired by cases his judge father was presiding over in juvenile court in Florida when he was making his film Huracan.
He told the PA news agency: “Every case that goes through that courthouse involves the legitimate claim of child abuse, child abandonment, child neglect.
“And the cases I saw going through his courthouse, it’s just really heartbreaking, really painful – some of the worst things you can imagine.
“And, a lot of these kids, the trauma that they endured that got them in that courthouse – at home with their parents, with their step parents etc. That marks them for life and they, a lot of times, develop mental illness as a result of that.
“And that’s really where I found the grounding for this story.”
Corrigan said he worked closely with the court-appointed therapist who took him to halfway houses and to meet peer counsellors to show him the intersection of mental illness and the criminal justice system. She went on to become a consultant on the film.
He said: “It’s so difficult to sort out. What do you do if someone fits into that intersection, who has committed a crime but suffers from mental illness? And there’s no easy answer.
“I didn’t write this film to act in it. I wrote it so that I could direct my first movie. As I was casting that role, I felt the responsibility that whoever I cast, not only do they have to be credible on the MMA side, as someone who’s probably been training for a couple of years, who’s had amateur fights, who’s ready to go professional. But they also, of course, have to bring truth to being a trauma survivor who’s suffering from severe mental illness.
“I just was unable to find that person in the casting search and I had to take that responsibility on my shoulders. I just felt like the most important thing that I would have to do, as a performer, as an actor in the movie and as a filmmaker, was to bring the emotional truth of that to life. Based on the reactions that we’ve got, it feels like we achieved that.”
He added: “We featured a form of therapy in the movie that’s never been shown in a film before. It’s EMDR – eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy.
“It’s a completely pioneering new form of therapy that uses binaural stimulation as a means of trauma resolution.
“So Judy, our consultant, who was the court-appointed therapist working in juvenile court at the time, she was telling me: ‘This is new, it’s the most effective thing we’ve found to deal with people who are trauma survivors and help them process it and get to a healthier place with it.
“‘But it’s so new that insurance companies don’t cover it. So a lot of the people that we treat can’t afford to have it. So if you could put this in the movie and build awareness for it, that could be really helpful’.”
Huracan is available to watch in cinemas across the UK now