International films and various film series can be an important source of social and medical information about diseases. The film database EMDb indexes over 500 film titles from over 100 years which deal with the subject of epilepsy, the second most common neurological disease.
‘Epilepsy films’ are rarely films with a focus exclusively or even mainly on epilepsy. The EMDb also aims not only to index films in which ‘epilepsy’ or ‘epileptic seizures’ play a direct or indirect role. Films are considered in which the relation to epilepsy is of secondary importance and episodic. A quote, sequence, literary or historical reference which includes the disease is considered sufficient to fulfil the criteria of an ‘epilepsy film’ and warrant the inclusion of the film in the EMDb.
Seizures and symptoms are regarded cinematically rather than medically, i.e. from the perspective of the cinema-goer with general knowledge. The keywords however are more closely aligned with current scientific knowledge and epileptological terminology. The EMDb project is supported by the German Branch of the International League Against Epilepsy (DGfE).
The EMDb indexes epilepsy films which could be of interest for analysis and practical use by health professionals, patients and their relatives, cineasts, medical historians, film journalists, media experts, as well as organisers of information events, educational campaigns and self-help groups.
‘Epilepsy film’ is neither a film genre nor an accepted film historical term for thematically or formally connected films. The term is intended to serve the practical purpose of denoting all films in which epilepsy plays a (sometimes even small) role. For a film to be included in the database, it is therefore unimportant whether the film narration represents or explores epilepsy or epileptic seizures from a medical point of view. Decisive factors are:
The editors of the EMDb acknowledge that the decision based on these criteria has a subjective component.
Further information can be found under keywords.
‘New’ films as considered by the EMDb include discoveries from the world of international films as well as newly made films and those in the making, in which epilepsy and epileptic seizures play a (sometimes small) role. A detailed explanation can be found under keywords.
The EMDb offers a short description of all indexed films and in some cases a comprehensive commentary. It includes keywords by which film titles can be looked up and subsequently sorted and displayed according to genre, country of production and year of release.
While epilepsy films can disseminate important information about epilepsy, they should not be seen as substitutes for medical information. Film and TV films are predominantly entertainment media, following their own rules. While some narratives are well scientifically supported and others not at all, societal views of epilepsy shared by the filmmakers at the time of the film’s production are reflected.
The EMDb was made possible through financial support of Hörmann KG, the German Branch of the International League Against Epilepsy (DGfE) and Desitin Arzneimittel GmbH.
The project was established by Stefan Heiner, MPhil and has been supervised by a comission since 2019 (Friedhelm C. Schmitt, MD (Chairman); Nora Füratsch, MD; Stefan Heiner, MPhi; Catherine Sweeny-Reed, MBBS, BSc, PhD; Florian Weissinger, MD). The content owes much to collaborations with Prof. Toba Kerson, Rupprecht Thorbecke, MPhil and Prof. Hans-Jürgen Wulff. It was enriched with the help of many users not mentioned here by name, whose help it further relies on.