If the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival were a person, it would be old enough to vote and packing its bags for college. So it’s appropriate that in its 18th year, Rendezvous is branching out and taking a stab at a mainstream audience.
The nine-day festival, which spotlights films that deal with mental health issues, has moved on from its old screening room in the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to a hall in the Workman Arts Centre on Dufferin St and is hosting an opening-night gala screening at the new Bell Lightbox cinema.
“This is kind of like our film festival is coming out of the closet,” says Glen Pennell, the programmer of Rendezvous’ queer showcase. “It’s exciting because after 18 years, people are finally going to start to hear about this festival.”
Rendezvous’ goal is to probe how common perceptions of mental illness are shaped by film, and to open up a dialogue about how we understand mental health. Screenings are followed by panel discussions in which the filmmakers, audience members, mental health professionals and people with lived experience talk about the mental health challenges the films depict.
“Film drives common perceptions of mental illness,” Pennell says. “It’s the goal of Rendezvous to use the same medium to reduce the stigma.
“Everybody who has a brain deals with mental health, but there’s this stigma,” Pennell says. “It’s a common disease, but it’s still something that’s stuck in the closet that no one wants to deal with.”
This year’s queer spotlight brings two films from Australia, the short coming-of-age drama The Distance Between and the gaybashing documentary Holding Hands.