80 minutes. Released originally in New York on September 11, 2011. Produced and directed by Misha Votruba and Vaclav Dejcmar
A highly produced, provocative film takes a look at psychopaths, sociopaths, the financial crisis, the rampant use of drugs to numb emotions, the human response to positive and negative examples, as well as authority. This engaging film is narrated by Peter Coyote who opens the film by describing the manner in which psychopaths seduce their victims. The directors and producers have experience in psychology, as well as financial markets and know how to tell a story visually. There are numerous interviews and illustrations of gauging the difference between “normal people and psychopaths” and the difficulty in identifying them, with and without brain scanning technology.
Psychologists, authors, experts, philosophers, as well as “men and women on the streets” offer their understanding and their views, not merely on psychopaths, but on the use of drugs, anti-depressants in particular, which numb emotions. If psychopaths are incapable of empathy, remorse, and compassion, what happens when a large section of the population dull their feelings, in order for them to “carry on with their work and lives…” In addition to the cited “studies and research,” there is quite a bit of speculation directed at those leaders of empires over time who might be considered “psychopathic.” A kaleidoscope of movie clips and historical photos challenge and reinforce various points of view about the stereotypical popular assumptions about psychopaths, and the discoveries about how some have risen to the top of pyramids of power in the dominant modern hierarchical institutions.
Included in the film are Robert Hare, author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, and more than two hundred chapters and scientific articles on psychopathy; Paul Babiak, author (with Hare) of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, and vice president of Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation; professor Emeritus at Stanford, Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect; as well as Christopher Lane, Gary Greenberg, Charles Barber, James Fowler, Nicholas Christakis, Byron Woollen, and John Perry Barlow, whose experience and expertise ranges from writing lyrics for the Grateful Dead, understanding social networks, to revealing how people are being medicated for newly “manufactured ailments” from shyness to the normal conflicts experienced by siblings.
Playing on the ancient saying that “A fish rots from the head,” the film also explores how to recognize and counter illegitimate authority. The filmmakers are from the Czech Republic, and included excerpts from Vaclev Havel, playwright, poet, dissident and politician (The tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-92) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003). Havel died in 2011, after the film was released, and perhaps the most challenging part of the film is to read the subtitles of him speaking, otherwise the rest of the film is in English. While Havel’s words are inspiring, he has also been criticized for being a U. S. and NATO pawn. The psychologists do not say that there are a greater percentage of psychopaths running corporations, institutions and governments than amongst the general population. They do emphasize how negative and positive examples greatly influence people, beyond our ability to see and measure. The more hopeful and stronger message is the importance of taking a moral stand, taking responsibility, showing leadership and recognizing how deeply our own behavior effects those closest to us, and ripples outward throughout society.
The film is a gift from those who created it. I have found that great foreign films need champions in the US to be seen and heard, and that it really is up to those who do care, who feel empathy, compassion and concern, to champion information, ideas that are rarely acknowledged in the corporate press. This film fits into the larger theme of the annual Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance Film Festival which looks this year at what Berkeley Professor Peter Dale Scott terms “deep events” those that are “systematically ignored or falsified in the mainstream media and public consciousness.” While the main “event” that I Am Fishead focuses on is the financial meltdown that occurred in 2008, clearly decisions were made before, during, and after the crisis as well as other significant “events” that benefited a few, but at tremendous cost to the vast majority. Understanding psychopaths and sociopaths might be necessary for our individual and collective survival, and this film casts some penetrating light on some very cloudy fabricated stereotypes and assumptions.
I Am Fishead is scheduled to premiere in Oakland on September 11, 2012 , from 7:44 pm – 10:03 pm at the Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Avenue in Oakland, as part of the 9/11 Truth Film Festival. The Festival begins at 2:00 pm and concludes at 11:30 pm and includes numerous films and speakers. It is a benefit for the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance, for the full schedule of films and speakers see the website http://www.sf911truth.org.