In case you weren’t aware, today is International Epilepsy Day – a joint initiative created by the International Bureau for Epilepsy and the International League Against Epilepsy – which aims to promote awareness of the condition.
It is estimated that there are 65 million people living with epilepsy around the world, but despite that figure, little is known about the condition among the general public. For most it conjures up images of people dropping to the ground, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth, but for the majority of sufferers this is not how the condition manifests itself.
In my experience getting anyone without direct experience of epilepsy to read an article or pick up a book about the condition is almost impossible, and films or TV programmes are probably the most common way people find out about epilepsy. So I’ve spent the past week scouring the internet for films featuring the condition as a key element of the plot.
I’m happy to report that the experience was mostly rewarding. I found it comforting to see people with epilepsy going through the same experiences that I have. It was inspiring to see what people with epilepsy and their families have achieved despite the condition. And it was interesting to see how different cultures and countries treat the condition.
However, there were also some very sad aspects to these films, about how historic attitudes to epilepsy ruined some people’s lives.
Anyway, here is my Top 10 of films featuring epilepsy, happy watching!
1. Control (2007)
Control is a biographical film about the life of Ian Curtis, singer of the late-1970s English post-punk band Joy Division. Curtis, a husband and father, begins to feel the strain of his band’s growing fame, his crumbling marriage and his worsening epilepsy.
2. …First do no harm (1997)
This American made-for-television film tells the story of a boy whose severe epilepsy does not respond to drugs, which leave him with terrible side effects. At the end of her tether, his mother fights the doctors to get him placed on a controversial Ketogenic Diet programme.
3. Electricity (2014)
A journey seen through the eyes of a young woman with epilepsy that brings extraordinary hallucinations as she searches for her long lost brother.
4. The Lost Prince (2003)
This British television drama focuses on the life of Prince John – the youngest child of Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary – who had epilepsy and learning disabilities.
5. A Fighting Choice (1986)
An American film based on a teenager’s legal battle against his parents for the right to decide about a risky form of brain surgery to cure his epilepsy.
6. Fight for Life (1987)
An American couple take their six-year-old daughter to England to get access to an epilepsy drug unavailable in the US. The family take their story to the media to highlight their case and force the Food and Drug Administration to speed up its decision on use in America.
7. The Aura (2005)
Esteban Espinosa, a taxidermist with epilepsy, fantasizes about committing the perfect crime. While hunting, he accidentally kills a guide from the area, who is actually a criminal. This provides Espinosa with the chance of executing a real crime, which he does while struggling with epilepsy.
8. Requiem (2006)
A German university student with epilepsy suffers a breakdown during her first year at university. The girl, believed by members of her church and herself to be possessed, decides to seek help from a priest to battle her troubles.
9. The Exploding Girl (2009)
A college student with epilepsy returns home to Brooklyn during a break. While she is visiting her mother and catching up with her childhood friend, her boyfriend dumps her via a phone call, and drama ensues.
10. Khadak (2006)
The film is set in the steppes of Mongolia and follows Bagi, a nomadic herder, during his coming of age and the forced relocation of his people. As Bagi fights epilepsy, he leads a group of young people who try to enliven the despondent populace to return to their nomadic lifestyle.