6 October 2023

Promising new film sheds light on broadcaster's battle with mental illness

| Edwina Mason
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Man standing on stage with back to the seats, being filmed by man with camera

Craig Hamilton’s documentary The Promise, which screens in Canberra on 10 October, provides an insight into the ABC sports broadcaster’s personal struggles and triumphs in living with bipolar disorder. Photo: Craig Hamilton.

A groundbreaking new documentary challenging the stigma around mental illness is coming to Canberra this month thanks to a former ABC broadcaster.

The Promise, a film about mental health and suicide awareness, is an adaptation of Craig Hamilton’s journey with bipolar disorder as outlined in his best-selling book Broken Open.

Craig is probably best known as a member of the Grandstand Rugby League commentary team in a broadcast career that also saw him covering grand finals, State of Origin series and international Test matches not just for league but also rugby union and cricket.

Craig, born and raised in the Hunter Valley town of Singleton, spent 16 years working as an underground coalminer in the Newcastle area before embarking on a radio career full time in 1999.

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A year later, he was on the verge of achieving his dream of covering the Sydney Olympics for the ABC when an unexpected turn of events at a Newcastle train station revealed his deep-seated struggles with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

Instead of making his Olympic broadcast debut, Craig’s path led him to a mental health facility, marking the beginning of a remarkable story of resilience.

Based in Newcastle, Craig has only just hung up the headphones at the ABC and now travels nationally and internationally to speaking engagements covering a range of topics including his experience with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, good mental health and wellbeing.

In July 2012, Allen and Unwin released his second book, A Better Life.

The Promise – which is to screen at Palace Cinemas in Canberra – provides an insight into Craig’s personal struggles and triumphs in living with bipolar disorder.

“I wanted to share my story to rewrite the narrative surrounding mental health and suicide prevention,” he said.

The Promise aims to inspire empathy, understanding and action, and foster prioritising mental wellbeing and support for people on their path to recovery, Craig explains.

Two men, one sitting and one standing behind a wooden table talking

The Promise has been directed by filmmaker Jye Currie (left) with Craig Hamilton (right). Currie says the film isn’t just a piece of art, it is an instrument of change. Photo: Craig Hamilton.

“I hope it will ignite transformative conversations, give hope and create lasting change,” he said, “I’m passionate about mental illness because I’ve survived it and speaking about it might save someone else’s life.”

The film’s objective, according to the popular Hunter-based personality, is to normalise conversations around mental illness; to make mental health as easy to discuss as common colds.

Revered figures such as TV personality Jessica Rowe, mental health advocates Joe Williams and Bailey Seamer, world champion boxer Tim Tszyu, rugby league premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett and legendary NRL captain Paul “The Chief” Harragon have all had input into the film.

The Promise has been directed by filmmaker Jye Currie, who runs the award-winning Green Frog Productions, and says the documentary is the first of its kind.

“We have captured authentic stories of people who have survived attempting suicide and those who lost loved ones to suicide,” he said.

“I understand the possible risk when making a film like this, but if I let risk stop me, Australia would still be waiting for a suicide prevention film.”

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He said he wanted The Promise to create a pioneering, timeless and transformative experience for viewers that challenged stigma, sparked conversations and empowered individuals.

“This isn’t just a piece of art, it is an instrument of change,” he said.

Craig and Jye are also scheduled to host an audience Q&A session in conjunction with Canberra’s screening.

The film is set to screen throughout Australia in coming months and proceeds from ticket sales will support the work of Lifeline centres.

The Promise will be screening at Palace Cinemas, 2 Phillip Law Street Canberra on 10 October at 7 pm. Tickets are available through the Green Frog Productions website.

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