More than 200 films from 25 countries were submitted to this year’s 23rd annual Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival and one person had the chance to watch them all.
Parkdale resident Geoff Pevere, program director for the film festival, had the opportunity to watch every short, feature and documentary film entered.
Presented by Workman Arts, the festival is the first of its kind and the largest film fest that investigates mythologies surrounding mental illness and addiction.
“It’s a lot of movie watching about mental illness and recovery. I learned a lot. I made a point to watch them all. I feel that it’s important that we give all the films as much consideration as we can and be fair to the people who submitted,” Pevere said.
“These are films that are in some cases quite challenging and quite controversial. And (I had to) find a home for them where they’re not going to just be screened, but screened with dialogue about the issues that they raise.”
Forty films made the final cut, and will be featured in the nine-day festival that kicks off Nov. 6 and runs until Nov. 14.
“When I was asked to assemble the program this year I was delighted,” he said.
The film Pevere chose to launch the festival this year is the world premiere of Swift Current at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W. Directed by Joshua Rofé, a documentary chronicling the life of NHL player Sheldon Kennedy who went from hotshot hockey player to alcoholic to advocate for victims of sexual abuse.
“It’s an extremely compelling story about how he struggled with his own dependency issues and what it was like being in the public spotlight while going through all that,” Pevere explained.
This year, the festival has more than 20 programs, such as post screening discussions with directors and actors, and symposiums about mental health topics featured in the films, with national and international filmmakers, a multi-media installation exhibition, and a full-day symposium with a spotlight on television and addiction.
“The original idea behind the festival was to present an opportunity for audiences to take a look at films that were dealing with issues of mental illness and recovery from around the world,” Pevere explained to The Villager.
The current goal of the festival, he added, is to increase awareness of and advocacy for mental health and addiction issues among the public.
“Rendezvous (with Madness) is the place to be to learn about mental health,” he said.
Pevere is a former movie critic, author and broadcaster who’s been involved with the film festival for years in varying capacities; from moderator to reporting on the festival itself and now as a program director. For him, this film festival is one of the most significant in the city.
“It dates way back to a time where there weren’t too many festivals in Toronto and because the festival has grown along with some really huge shifts in public awareness and thinking about mental health and addiction,” he said.
For Pevere, a film fest like this one is crucial to showcase the role creativity and artistic expression play in forming self-awareness and communicating, he said.
Most importantly, he said, this is a way for people who have experience mental illness to say “this is who I am, this is the way I see the world.”
For more information about the festival, visit,www.rendezvouswithmaddness.com