“Prepare to be moved, disturbed, engaged. Come for the film. Stay for the conversation,” says Canadian author and media critic Geoff Pevere.
Pevere is director of programs for Rendezvous with Madness, a Toronto based film festival focused on movies that delve into the world of mental health and addiction.
The festival is travelling across Canada and presenting screenings of films that audiences found impactful. “We’re showing some of the best and most powerful films that we’ve included over the past years.”
Two of the films from the 2016 festival will be screened in Whitehorse at the Yukon Arts Centre on Thursday, August 17th, and Pevere will be hosting discussions afterward.
“If you think you don’t know anybody suffering with addiction or mental illness you’re not paying attention,” says Pevere.
Indeed, more than 10 per cent of Canadians over 15 years old surveyed in a 2012 Statistics Canada study reported “symptoms consistent” with at least one “mental or substance use disorder.”
Pevere says that these films “allow people an opportunity to speak up” by creating a safe space to discuss mental health and addiction.
The double screening starts at 6 p.m with Swift Current (2016), by director Joshua Rofé. It’s a documentary about NHL player Sheldon Kennedy’s struggle with sexual abuse perpetrated on him by his junior hockey coach Graham James.
Kennedy, now 48 years old, has played for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames. He’s a strong and vocal advocate for survivors of sexual abuse in sports.
“Swift Current is an extremely emotionally powerful experience,” says Pevere. “It exists to help people who have experienced sexual abuse talk about it.”
The second film, called The Other Half (2016), is by Canadian director Joey Klein, and starts at 8:30 p.m. The story centres around a couple beset by their own issues. Nickie, (Tom Cullen) is dealing with unresolved trauma while Emily, (Tatiana Maslany) is bipolar. The story explores the space where mental illness and relationships intersect. “Experiencing mental illness can be very isolating. They’re feeling attracted to each other, but also terrified,” says Pevere.
Pevere says that while he’s grown weary of film festivals and screenings over the years Rendezvous with Madness is different because it has a raison d’être beyond just filling seats and selling popcorn.
“The screenings are always the prelude to a conversation,” he says. “We’re putting something on screen and helping people talk about their experience. We show films so that discussions about recovery can happen.”
He notes that film screenings can create a profoundly intimate environment through the shared audience experience of watching the movie. He says whether or not you’re struggling with mental illness or addiction yourself, the film can open up the audience to what life is like for those who do. “These experiences can be powerful for many people. It’s an opportunity for useful discourse,” he says.
This is the first time that the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival has left Ontario and Pevere is looking forward to taking the screenings around Canada to raise awareness about mental health and addiction. Pevere is currently going through the selection process for the 2017 festival, which received nearly 300 submissions and happens November in Toronto. Picking which films to screen is a process that he says requires keeping a certain emotional distance from the subject matter. “I like when a film has courage and skill,” says Pevere.
Hosted by the Yukon Film Society the screenings of Swift Current and The Other Half are followed by group discussions facilitated by Pevere and a Q&A with The Other Half Director Joey Klein. For more information visit YukonFilmSociety.com.