Happy Android sheds new light on mental health awareness

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Tubby the Robot has charmed film festival audiences around the world, and now his powerful story will be shared across Australia.

Happy Android, the award-winning documentary from Brisbane filmmaker Jaina Kalifa, will screen on ABC TV’s Compass program on Sunday, September 8.

The film follows the moving journey of Melbourne street performer Paul Cooper, and his much-loved character Tubby the Robot. While Tubby is a familiar presence at festivals and events around Australia and overseas, Paul’s private battles with anxiety and depression were not public, until now.

“The first time I saw Tubby, I loved him, and the reactions that you see from audiences when they watch the film are no different,” Kalifa says.

“Tubby makes people smile and laugh, and that provides a stark contrast with the depression and anxiety that Paul lives with every day.”

Kalifa has known Cooper for many years, and always wanted to make a documentary about his life. Happy Android experiments with magical realism, and includes touching interviews with Tubby as a character in his own right.

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The film had its world premiere in April at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival – an official qualifying event for the Academy Awards short documentary category.

It has since won the Audience Award at CineGlobe Film Festival in Geneva, and took home two prizes (Supreme Jury Award, and Best Director) at the recent Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.

The Compass screening comes shortly before R U OK Day on September 12 – an important opportunity to discuss mental health and suicide prevention among friends, co-workers, and family.

Kalifa says he created Happy Android to encourage new conversations about mental health, and the role of the arts and performance as therapy. Several Brisbane organisations have decided to screen Happy Android for staff on R U OK Day, and Kalifa hopes more will follow.

Happy Android can be viewed at 6.30pm on Sunday, September 8 on Compass, and will remain accessible on ABC iview until October 8.

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