The insightful and provocative documentary follows the honest stories of men from across Australia who deal with complex issues on a day-to-day basis, while Bailey explores what is missing from the conversation about men’s mental health in contemporary Australia.
“Happy Sad Man came to be through my friendship with a guy named John and, like I say at the start of the film, he is at once the happiest and the saddest man I have ever met,” said Bailey. “I was really interested in John’s way to express his high highs and his low lows, and I think for a man of his vintage (70), and in Australia, we don’t particularly hear older men speak the way that he does.
“When I began, I realised that by including other men’s stories I could broaden the conversation. I think it can, hopefully, reduce some of the stigmas around talking about mental health and expressing any form of venerability.”
Throughout the film, Bailey encounters men from all walks of life and opens up a dialogue about the issues men find difficult to discuss, in an attempt to show that conditions such as anxiety, bipolar and depression affect thousands of Australians every day.
“I was familiar with men’s mental health issues through my friendship with John,” said Bailey. “I just became fascinated in John’s honesty and exploring his inner world, and I think that I had learnt quite a bit about depression, mania and bipolar from him alone.
“I think more and more people are understanding what anxiety, in particular, is, and that it can come in many different shapes and forms. I felt like the more I talked about [the film] socially, guys would say ‘Yeah, I’m a happy, sad man’.”
The film follows the stories of five men, who are from vastly diverse backgrounds, age groups and regions of the country. Bailey knew three of the men before making the film and met the other two through the process of making it.
“It reminded me how pervasive mental health issues are within our communities, and I think people are becoming more and more ready to talk about mental health issues,” said Bailey. “If this film came out 10 years ago it would be a different situation, but now the climate has changed, and people are becoming more aware of how important it is to not hide this stuff.
“I wanted to include stories that were from different age groups and different backgrounds, people who are living in the city, and people who are living in the country. The truth is, I could drive my car to any town, big or small, in Australia and find stories that are worth sharing. “
Production on the film started in 2013, with footage being used from as far back as 2011, and features a beautiful score by Nick Huggins.
Suicide is the biggest killer of Australian men between the ages 18 and 45. Knowing this, Bailey uses the film to find out what is missing from the conversation about men’s mental health.
“As a director, my job is to make people feel comfortable on camera. A big part of Happy Sad Man for me was being reminded of how important it is to listen,” said Bailey. “I think one of the problems is that people feel like other people won’t listen when they talk about their issues.
“A big theme of the film is about how can we have more compassion for ourselves, but how can we have compassion for people who are going through a hard time.”
Bailey has already debuted the film at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Sydney, the Byron Bay International Film Festival and The Melbourne International Film Festival, and has received heart-warming reactions from viewers.
“There was an instant bond between the men on the film when the met each other at the premiere because even though they didn’t know each other, they have all been involved in this process of making this project,” said Bailey.
Happy Sad Man will have its South Australian debut tonight at the GU Film House, with tickets available here.
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