In July, the Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival, the first and largest mental health film festival in the world, announced that it was dropping “film” from its title, and evolving into its next twenty-five years as a multidisciplinary arts festival, including provocative and globe-trotting film,

Renamed Rendezvous with Madness the full programming line up for the 26th edition, running from October 10 to 21, 2018, has expanded to a twelve-day festival that showcases 18 features and short programs from around the globe, 6 live performance pieces, and a visual arts exhibition. In keeping with the mandate that drove the first 25 years of the festival, Rendezvous With Madness continues the vital exploration of the realities and mythologies surrounding mental health and addiction issues.

The 2018 festival kicks off on October 10thwith the Toronto premiere of The Song and The Sorrow, a feature documentary about legendary Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan – best known for his hits from the 1970s, including “Snowbird”, “Put Your Hand in the Hand”, and “The Call.” A Juno-award-winning musician, MacLellan gained national attention as one of the most brilliant songwriters in the Canadian music industry but he was never comfortable with being in the spotlight. After struggling with depression, MacLellan took his own life in 1995.

Years after his death, his daughter Catherine revisits her father’s past trying to understand his life-long battle with depression. The Song and the Sorrow captures Catherine’s personal struggle to reconcile her family’s tragedy and break the silence surrounding mental illness.
The opening night film will unspool this year at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and will be accompanied by live performances from Catherine MacLellan and Workman Arts’ Bruised Years Choir and preceded by a festival launch reception.

The 26th year of the festival marks a significant departure from our film festival roots to a multidisciplinary event, said Workman Arts Executive Artistic Director, Kelly Straughan. Expanding the festival to include all art forms allows us to include more artists with lived experience, present a broader range of ideas surrounding mental health, and invite a wider audience to take part in the festival.  We are extremely excited to kick off the festival this year on World Mental Health Day and to continue to promote vital dialogues about illness, recovery, and resiliency through the lens of artists from around the world.
It would be very easy in the year following our twenty-fifth anniversary to rest on our so-called laurels and simply present “more of the same, added Rendezvous Film Program Director Geoff Pevere. We’re fortunate that as the world’s first and largest mental health film festival, Rendezvous With Madness is already seen as a leader, a mentor, and trailblazer. We indeed continue to blaze trails this year by adding live music, theatre, performance art and an expanded visual arts exhibition alongside eighteen film programs over twelve days in nine venues that are more accessible than ever.
Following our exciting opening night event, we present documentaries about subjects including the impact of the long civil war in Sri Lanka (Demons in Paradise); the radical German anti-psychiatry group “Socialist Patients Collective” (SPK Complex); addiction struggles in Afghanistan (Laila Under The Bridge) and in our closing night presentation we feature a story of brutal street justice taken out by illegal Republican gangs in Northern Ireland in Sinead O’Shea’s devastating A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot,” Pevere adds.
Other film highlights include Goliath, the second feature from Swiss director Dominik Locher, a naturalistic examination of masculinity in crisis in a story about a young man who, following a random attack on a train and a surprise pregnancy, takes to steroid use and intensive training to become the ultimate protector to his girlfriend and baby; in Xiao Mei from Taiwanese director Maren Hwang, the mystery of a missing young drug addict is unraveled through the recollections and perceptions of her from the people who knew her; My Talk With Florence from Austrian director Paul Poet is an astonishing and timely two-hour portrait of an abuse survivor at the hands of lauded contemporary artist Otto Mühl and her eventual emancipation and survival; and Dressage from Iranian first-time feature director Pooya Badkoobeh, follows a group of teenagers after they rob a convenience store for a thrill and then force the least affluent in their group to go back and retrieve a security tape when they realize they left it behind.
New this year in the film program, Rendezvous With Madness presents a free outdoor screening in Dufferin Grove Park of the Oscar-nominated animated feature The Breadwinner. The celebrated story of an 11-year old girl growing up under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan unspools on October 16th at 7:30 pm.
Following the success of last year’s documentary project If You Ask Me, a compilation of short films created by youth from across Canada exploring their own experiences with mental illness and addiction, this year Rendezvous With Madness in partnership with CAMH’s National Youth Action Council have commissioned 15 of the young filmmakers to create new If You Ask Me films and are supporting the creators with mentorship support.  If You Ask Me screens on October 14 at 5:00pm.
The live performance program begins October 11 at the Toronto Media Arts Centre, with Context: A theatrical exploration of mental health from Echo Productions, written by Adrian Yearwood and directed by Victoria Fuller. An exploration of mental health and its impact on everyday social interactions, Context offers a window into the mind of a young woman suffering in silence.  The program continues with a powerful story about addiction and recovery from Dora Award-winning artist Jim LeFrancoisManitoba Music; break bread with Goat Howl Theatre’s Dinner with Madness, an interactive and theatrical party that takes the audience through the trials and tribulations of mental health struggles; SummerWorks Festival highlights 4 1/2 (ig)noble Truths by Thomas McKechnie – recognized by Now Magazine for Best Director and Outstanding Performance in the fest and presented by Zeitpunktheatre in association with Why Not Theatre – and The Red Horse is Leaving, a deeply personal story that examines madness and creativity from acclaimed artist Erika Batdorf; and Stormshelter, the story of a mother learning to reconcile her struggles with bipolar disorder with her role as a parent, by multimedia artist Brad Necyk, and staged at CAMH itself.
Film and live performance work are complemented in 2018 by a visual art exhibition at the Toronto Media Arts Centre gallery, Bursting Bubbles: Creating Context for Evolving Solitudes. Featuring local Canadian artists who, through states of introspection, irony or innovation, explore the nature of evolving solitudes, pushing comfort zones, bursting bubbles and processing the impacts. Presenting artists include Stephanie Avery, Janieta Eyre, Kat Singer, Hanan Hazime, Laura Kikauka, Wendy Lu, and Wendy Whaley.
To wrap it all up, the festival ends with a multi-disciplinary cabaret and arts party co-programmed this year with vanguard events producers Long Winter. On Saturday October 20thNerve Endings takes over Workman Arts from 5:00 pm to midnight. In true Rendezvous fashion, artists of all genres and styles animate the night with real, raw, immersive and interactive pieces about mental health and lived experience. Expect an eclectic, honest, inclusive and courageous program with energy building throughout the night. Local hip hop artist 3K kicks off at 8:00 pm to make this art party complete. Featuring performances by Rose the Clown, contemporary dance troupe Samel Tanz, aerial circus artists Mary-Margaret and Elisa, and don’t forget to join the Cult of Think Blank Human! Guests can take the night home with them for just $2 at the Magic Gumball Machine of Fate, which puts an artistic twist on a childhood classic. The Magic Gumball Machine of Fate is an artist’s-multiple project by Catherine Heard that distributes work by Canadian creators and makes art affordable for everyone.
Advance tickets for all events are “pay as you wish” and offered for $12, $15, or $20 online at workmanarts.com or by phone (416-583-4339 Mon-Fri 10am-5pm). Tickets will also be available for purchase at the venue starting 1 hour prior to start time on a “pay what you wish” basis with a minimum suggested of $12. The opening night film program is $15 for the film and performances only; $35 with pre-film reception including food and beverage. This year passes are also available for $44 for four events, $80 for eight events, and $100 for unlimited single entry to all events.  Matinee screenings at CAMH are by donation.

More details and full schedule of programming can be found here.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.