Vamik’s Room: A documentary film about the life of psychoanalyst Vamik Volkan at Freud Museum
Vamik’s Room is a documentary film by Molly Castelloe about the life of Vamik Volkan, a psychoanalyst born in Cyprus who has worked a lifetime around the globe bringing representatives from warring factions together for dialogue.
The film dramatizes Vamik’s main ideas about group psychology, tracing how he has helped heal conflict in traumatized regions including the Middle East, Estonia and the Republic of Georgia. It illustrates the importance of adaptive mourning and how malignant leaders can mobilize shared memories of a past injury to catalyze a “time collapse” in the present that fuels genocidal acts of revenge.
A central storyline concerns Vamik’s work with a refugee family forced from their home in Abkhazia and how he helped the grief-stricken community find hope in their new surroundings, a dilapidated luxury hotel. He returns years later where out of the ruins the people have built a room for him, “Vamik’s room.” The film concludes by describing his recent diplomatic work with the International Dialogue Initiative, which creates a reflective space for groups to communicate free from the distortions of historical trauma.