On our radar: What to see at the 2021 Rendezvous with Madness Festival

Workman Arts RENDEZVOUS WITH MADNESS FESTIVAL is the largest and longest-running arts festival in the world dedicated to the intersection of mental health and artistic expression. It is running from October 28 to November 7 this year both in-person and online. The 2021 edition will present 18 feature films and five short programs for a total of 68 films from 18 countries. The films will be complemented by post-screening Q+A’s and panel discussions.

Here’s what is on our radar…

KÍMMAPIIYIPITSSINI: THE MEANING OF EMPATHY (Opening night film) from director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. The film, which premiered at Hot Docs and was one of the Rogers Audience Award winners, chronicles the impact of the opioid crisis on Indigenous communities and advocates for a harm reduction approach to drug addiction rather than criminalization.

Rendezvous with Madness Festival
Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

DRUNK ON TOO MUCH LIFE (Closing night film) from Toronto’s Michelle Melles – a very personal film that follows the filmmaker’s daughter Corrina from the hallways of locked-down psych wards, countless medications, and diagnostic labels into healing methods outside of standard biomedical models. On their journey, the family learns that madness has meaning that goes far beyond brain chemistry and that recovery is not a straight path to being cured but a crooked and bumpy journey and series of small awakenings. The film strives to change how people perceive those with mental health issues framing their conditions as potentially insightful gives rather than burdensome disorders and will lead to conversations about ways the Canadian mental health programme succeeds and fails to accommodate and support young people in their healing.

NORTH BY CURRENT, which first screened at Berlinale and Tribeca to outstanding reviews, is having it’s Canadian Premiere here. Trans filmmaker Angelo Minax returns to his hometown in Michigan after the death of his 3-year-old niece with the intent of making a film about the criminal justice system. Instead, the film becomes a cathartic journey through grief and his family’s wider unresolved traumas, including his transition.

POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHÉ from the UK – The film is a documentary about Marianne Joan Elliott-Said (aka Poly Styrene) who is a punk rock legend and was the first Black woman in the UK to front a successful rock band. The film, narrated by Oscar-nominee Ruth Negga, looks at Marianne’s life and career from the perspective of her daughter, the film’s co-director, Celeste Bell. It is an intimate portrait of a punk icon and offers a candid look at a reluctant public figure who struggled with fame while battling mental illness.

Rendezvous with Madness Festival
Anny by Helena Treštíková

ANNY: The award-winning film by  Czech director Helena Treštíková makes its Canadian premiere with the story of a 46-year-old sex worker told in Trestikova’s signature “time-lapse documentary” approach.

JACINTA: from Jessica Earnshaw is a New York Film Festival Albert Maysles Documentary Director award-winning film that following Jacinta and her mother Rosemary as they move in and out of the corrections system while recovering from an intergenerational legacy of addiction.

SAFE: On October 31 there will be a special retro screening of this Todd Haynes (1995) classic film starring Julianne Moore. When the film first premiered, it spoke directly to the fear surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, in 2021, gains new relevance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safe – 1995 Director: Todd Haynes American Playhouse/Channel 4
USA.Scene Still

This year’s Festival also includes their annual visual art exhibit. Titled IN(SITE) the exhibition will feature work made in various media and presented this year on a dedicated online portal. Artists bring reflection and insight on their experiences of our changing world, many commenting directly on their pandemic mental health experiences. In SELF//ISOLATION Calgary artist Chelsea Watson brings her generative art practice to a collection of photos taken every month she spent in isolation during the pandemic, attempting to capture the chaos, fog, and distortion often experienced in times of trauma.

RENDEZVOUS WITH MADNESS full line up and ticket information can be found at www.workmanarts.com 




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