The Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival is now in its 21st year. The festival will show over 20 films and exhibitions from Nov. 11- 16.

Filmgoers rendezvous with mental health on silver screen

21st Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival runs Nov. 11–16 at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Workman Arts Theatre

Delaney Ruston watched her father struggle with paranoid schizophrenia all her life.

She cut off contact with him as an adult until one day she decided she wanted to reunite.

The documentary of her journey, the film Unlisted, showed in Toronto for the first time in 2004.

Now, Ruston has returned with a new film. Hidden Pictures: A Personal Journey Into Global Mental Health explores the similarities of individual struggles with mental health across the world.

This film was shown as part of the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival (RWMFF), now in its 21st year. Presented by Workman Arts, the festival, which runs Nov. 11–16 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and Workman Arts Theatre, will show more than 20 films and exhibitions exploring topics surrounding mental health and addiction.

In a recent press release, RWMFF founder Lisa Brown said the festival’s 2013 tag line, “Changing Perspectives”, is meant to reflect the positive changes organizers have seen since the festival began.

Lisa Brown is the founder of the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival
Lisa Brown, founder of the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival. (Courtesy Planet3 Communications Ltd.)

“Since the inception of RWM Film Festival in 1993, we have witnessed sweeping changes in both the worlds of film and of mental illness,” Brown said. “Stereotypical depictions of people with mental illness, such as mad scientists or obsessed ship captains, have evolved to more humane depictions of extraordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.”

The lineup features short and feature-length films from around the world, including selections from the U.S., Iran, Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. Opening night’s screening included the Canadian premiere of American director Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12.

Canadian filmmakers are also represented at the RWMFF, including many works from the member artists at Workman Arts, a Toronto-based organization providing individuals with mental illness the opportunity to engage in creative activities.

On Nov. 14, 10 short documentary films by Workman artists will be shown at the Workman Arts Theatre at 651 Dufferin St.

A panel of experts is on-hand after each screening to discuss with the audience their opinions on what they have seen. The panel typically includes a filmmaker, a person who has personal experience with mental illness and an expert in the field the film is exploring.

“There can be further discussion about the issue that came up in the film, why the filmmaker chose to explore the topic and how realistic that portrayal is in the eyes of the professional who deals with those issues on a day-to-day basis,” said Chris Mitchell, the visual arts manager at Workman Arts. “The audience can then share in that discussion and ask questions. It’s a very participatory way for people to become more informed.”

In addition to the films, Workman artists participate in three installations throughout the city. Mitchell said those exhibitions are chosen to be complementary to the films.

“We usually try to tie into some theme or program that is related to the films that are programmed,” she said.

For example, this year’s barbtasia: happy days are here again connects with a short animation that screened on opening night.

Annette Seip, a Mississauga-based photographer, created that film based on pieces by Workman artist Barbara Green Mann.

“So the documentary screened on opening night at the Bell Lightbox, and then an excerpt from the documentary, which is this animation sequence, is on a video monitor playing on a loop as part of this installation in the pop-up gallery space,” Mitchell said.

That pop-up gallery, which can be viewed from the street, is located at 1001 Queen St. W. until Nov. 17. The two other exhibitions, Perspectives in Paper and Text Me, are located at 1033 Queen St. W. and 1348 Dundas St. W. respectively.

Rendezvous with Madness events.