The film I have chosen for this week is “The Horse Boy.” The film concentrated on the story of a young boy, Rowan, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 and his parent’s risky decision of traveling across the world in search for shamans who could help. Rowans father, Rupert, had noticed that Rowan felt at ease and more comfortable when he mounded a horse with him. This gave Rupert the idea of finding placed that combined the use horses to heal/help Rowan’s autistic tantrums, inability to make friends, and expressive capabilities. Upon discovering that Malaysia offered this combined method, Rupert, his wife, and Rowan set out on a horseback adventure to delve within the shamanistic influences that Malaysia had to offer them.
Within the film, the healers are shaman or ‘witch doctors’ that are highly respected within Malaysian culture. Socially, as the film dictates, these shaman are mostly tribesmen and aren’t the wealthiest people in Malaysia. The techniques they used throughout the film focused on the folk sector as well as incorporating both the individuals body and spiritual beliefs in order to find a way to heal Rowan, not cure him. The Shaman who performed their rituals on Rowan used methods that in Western Medicine would not be entirely legal or accepted. For example, when they went up the mountain to meet the 9 Shaman that had come out for them, one of them whipped both Rupert and his wife as a way to ward off any evil that may be following them. Another required Rupert’s wife to rub a mixture throughout her vaginal area because the shaman believed that something ‘evil’ had entered her womb. They treated their patients as patients- if that makes sense. The way that they assumed the role of beings that should be offered the highest respect kind of made you see them as that as well. Their job was to help their patient, no nonsense prescriptions or promises, they just did what they had been doing for years-whether it worked for all cases or not.
Using the concept of the “Three Bodies” that was seen in lecture, the Shaman took into consideration the individual and social body. The individual body, because in order to perform the rituals, the soul and psyche have to have some kind of correlation. The idea of the body as a ‘natural symbol’ as shown in lecture, correlates with the portion of the film that sends the family to a healing like that is, according to the Malaysian people, “for the mind.” I definitely consider this form of medicine as a healthcare delivering system, even if I don’t necessarily believe in evil spirits or shaman powers. Healthcare within the shaman populations and Malaysians as well is delivered as a sort of sacred favor in a way. The shaman don’t know any patient history and aren’t particularly aware of what things like autism mean in a medical sense, just a behavioral and observational sense. The body is understood as a conjoined thing, a form that can be infiltrated by bad energies and therefore can be influenced by those energies (like when they said that Kristin’s grandmother was somehow following Rowan). Based on this, the shaman treated Rowan using rituals that involve not only Rowan, but his parents as well. It was pretty remarkable, watching the film and how things played out for Rowan in the end.