For 30 years the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival has used the arts to highlight the importance of mental health awareness. With the pandemic adding to, and exacerbating, a myriad of stresses and anxieties that we all deal with in life, the festival continues to be a vital tool for furthering discussions about mental health, addictions, recovery, and wellness.
Running a hybrid festival of in-person and virtual screenings from October 27 to November 6, and presented by Workman Arts, the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival is the largest and longest-running arts festival in the world dedicated to the intersection of mental health and artistic expression. The theme for the 30th edition of the festival is “#MoreThanRebellion”, a rallying cry for tearing down broken systems and embracing generational change. Featuring 30 films from 15 countries, live performance pieces, and a visual art exhibit; there is plenty of ways for festival goers to immerse themselves in artistic works that will challenge and inspire them.
The festival kicks off with the opening night film Marusya’s Syroechkovskaya’s How to Save A Dead Friend, a millennial love story set within the increasingly autocratic Russian regime. Filmed over the span of 12 years, this documentary follows Marusya and Kimi as they navigate love and addiction in the Russian music scene. Another documentary worth your attention is Reid Davenport’s Sundance-Award-winner I Didn’t See You There. Framed from Davenport’s perspective in his wheelchair, the film explores the various ways modern society continues to “other” those with disabilities.
Other titles playing at Rendezvous with Madness that made a splash at international festivals include Flore Vasseur’s Bigger Than Us, which finds Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard as one of its producers. Garnering positive reviews at Cannes, the film the follows activist Melati Wijsen as she travels the globe to talk with young people fighting for everything from food security to free speech. Eat Your Catfish by directors Adam Isenberg, Noah Amir Arjomand, and Senem Tüzen is a film that should also be on people’s radars. A hit at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, the film has been praised for its intimate and unflinching look at a family divided by the stresses of ALS.
Those interested in films that deal with unjust systems and discrimination should consider giving Michiel Thomas’s Gemmel & Tim a look. The film explores the suspicious death of two gay Black men in the West Hollywood home of a political donor and the ways racism and a broken judicial system nearly derailed justice being survived. If you are interested in films that will get you thinking about the healing power of therapy in new ways, then Vedrana Pribacic’s Bigger Than Trauma and Vibe Mogensen’s documentary Love Bound: When Your Child Becomes Mentally Ill are the films for you.
If short films are more your bag, there is Liz Roberts’ Midwaste, which explores the director’s relationship with heroin over several years, and two short programmes, If You Ask Me and Upon, Reflection, that are worth your time. If You Ask Me features short works by emerging filmmakers with lived mental health and/or addiction experiences. There is also Upon, Reflection which is an anthology of recent short films by Workman Arts members and Satellite program artists.
These are just a few of the titles you can catch at the festival. For the full Rendezvous with Madness schedule, ticket information, and information on how you can join the conversation about mental health visit the festival’s website.