New SA Feature shines light on Depression.

Depression is an illness like any other; there’s no shame in seeking help. That’s the message of a new film that treats mental illness with warmth, respect and integrity.

Mental illness, and the stigma surrounding it, is a critical issue. It’s the central theme of Skemerson, the new film directed by Phillip Rademeyer and written by Pietie Beyers, which opens nationwide on Friday 3 May 2019.

The film tells the story of a young man, Sella Beyers who decides to take his own life. He stands on the 216m high Bloukrans Bridge, the iconic arch bridge located near Nature’s Valley, about to meet his fate, when he hears a young woman’s laugh. When Emma (Anneke Weidemann), her frail mother, acclaimed actress Elize Cawood, and Sella meet serendipitously on the bridge, it’s the beginning of a weekend that changes three lives forever.

The film was made with financial assistance from pharmaceutical company Cipla South Africa, which produces a range of medicines for the treatment of depressive disorders. Wouter Lombard, Cipla’s Associate Director of Marketing in the Central Nervous System portfolio, says many people are not seeking help or getting treatment out of fear of being stereotyped.

Skemerson helps promote the message that depression can be treated effectively, and that help is always at hand. “We were keen to help fund the movie as part of our goal to fight the stigmas related to mental health conditions,” Lombard adds. “When Neil van Deventer and Pietie Beyers approached us we immediately realised that we had the same objectives – to get the message out there that ‘It’s ok not to be ok’, and that it’s ok to talk about mental health, a subject that needs to be highlighted.”

Skemerson is a personal story for Beyers and is inspired by true events. “It’s not entirely my own story, but my own experience with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) motivated me to write the script and have the film made. Expressing my emotions in a healthy and productive way proved to be a healing experience for me and I hope that the story will help others too. A key theme of the film is that mental health issues are normal, common, and nothing to be ashamed of,” he says.

Men are four times more likely to die by suicide, which suggests that many of them suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues. Instances of undiagnosed depression are also substantially higher in men, and it has been shown that they seek mental health help far less than women.2

Rademeyer says he has at times struggled with his own mental health and knows the feelings of shame and isolation it can cause. “Helping to bring this story to life was important,” he says. “With Skemerson we hope to convey to audiences the message that mental health issues are common, and nothing to be ashamed of.”

Skemerson is produced by Niel van Deventer (Dis Ek, Anna) and Pietie Beyers. The film stars Pietie Beyers (Binneland, Sy Klink Soos Lente), Elize Cawood (Vir Altyd, Die Wonderwerker) and Anneke Weidemann (Die Wonderwerker, Die Ongelooflike Avonture van Hanna Hoekom).  It is directed by Philip Rademeyer (Wild, Klippe wat Val).

To assist in destigmatising mental illness in South Africa, Cipla launched a free counselling helpline in collaboration with the South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group (SADAG).

If you are helping a friend, or need help yourself, contact the SADAG Cipla Mental Health Helpline on 0800 456 789, WhatsApp on 076 88 22 77 5, or visit for more information and help.

Skemerson is distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.

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