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Rendezvous with Madness film fest challenges stigma

The 2015 lineup brings ‘boldest, most eclectic and provocative programming yet’

Daniel’s World is a Czech documentary that follows a “virtuous pedophile.” Credit: Veronika Liskova

Daniel’s World is a Czech documentary that follows a “virtuous pedophile” as he navigates one of the most stigmatized forms of mental illness there is. Daniel is attracted to adolescent boys, but has never acted upon his feelings. He finds community through an online message board of other virtuous pedophiles. Rendezvous with Madness festival manager Scott Miller Berry describes the documentary as a powerful and compassionate portrait of Daniel that will confront audience’s beliefs.

“The film challenges the notion that all pedophiles are also sex offenders, which is a common mistake, especially in western media,” Miller Berry says. “The film doesn’t take a position per se — it just presents us with Daniel, his experiences, his struggles, his day to day reality.”

These struggles are what the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival is all about. Presented by Workman Arts, RWM was created in response to the lack of discussions around mental illness and addiction; to tackle challenging themes and facilitate healthy discussions on tough topics.

Founded in 1993 by Lisa Brown and Kathleen Fagan, Rendezvous with Madness became the world’s first film festival focused on mental illness and addiction, and is one of the largest festivals of its kind. It’s name was coined to reclaim the word “madness” for both clients at the health centre where Brown was a psychiatric nurse, and for the general public. Program director Geoff Pevere describes this year’s lineup as the festival’s “boldest, most eclectic and provocative programming yet.”

Festival organizers expects 5,000–6,000 attendees across nine days of screenings. This year’s edition features over 20 programs, a multimedia installation exhibition and a full-day symposium with a spotlight on television and addiction.

RWM provides filmmakers and artists with the opportunity to exhibit work that may not otherwise be seen, while facilitating discussion about and advocating for mental health and addiction issues. The festival kicks off with the world premiere of Swift Current, the story of Sheldon Kennedy, a former hockey star turned advocate for victims of sexual abuse. The story covers childhood sexual abuse from a hockey coach and the trajectory Kennedy’s life takes as a result. Director Joshua Rofé and Kennedy will be in attendance for a discussion after the screening.

Miller Berry notes that the festival creates important awareness among the public.

“The films themselves are incredibly captivating, bold, provocative and also personal, visually stunning and thought provoking,” he says.

“It’s really a chance to share stories revolving around mental health, wellness and recovery and engage in deeper discussions after the films with artists, health care practitioners and persons with lived experience.”