Mental health is a subject that is becoming more and more important and talked about today. We are still not where we should be, so that is why a film festival that screens films about mental health is needed. The mandate of the Au Contraire Film festival is to entertain, educate and engage. It tries to dispel the myths attached to mental health and get rid of the stigma attached to it.
Depicting mental illness in film is not something new. Films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Psycho, Girl, Interrupted, A Beautiful Mind, and Rain Man have all featured characters who suffer from mental health issues. While several of these got things right, many of the images which have found their way onto the big screens across the globe have done more harm than good. This is where this festival steps in. Steps in to correct falsehoods forwarded. Showing that people with mental illnesses are not caricatures, rather they are complex. They show that mental illness does not equal isolation, weakness and hopelessness.
After watching just a couple of the films being screened this year I have to say they were successful on all levels.
F**king Socks by Nena Tijsma:
This Dutch short film is only 10 minutes long, but packs plenty of punch. Making the most of every moment, it is based upon a short story by writer Dennis Gaens. It follows Dani as she is just released from a mental health institution. Once she gets home she finds out her mother is throwing her a welcome back party.
Not really thrilled about the party and the people invited to it, Dani spends most of the time thinking about things. Things like what it means to be home and where all this actually started.
First released in 2016, the film looks at the idea of returning to your life after having been away for a while. A search for meaning in life and what it truly means to be human. This rather esoteric idea is translated into something rather concrete through the images contained in the film. A film that strives to begin discussion about the subject. Focuses on the person with a mental illness and their family. How each side deals with it.
Un courte histoire de la folie by Isabelle Hayeur:
A bit longer of a film at 27 minutes, Quebec director Isabelle Hayeur tackles the subject of mental illness/health via dance. Through contemporary dance a picture of the history of mental illness in Quebec from the late 1800s until today is brought forth.
We see the evolution of treatment methods and how society at large sees those afflicted with mental illness. Also, we see how the quality of life has changed throughout the years and decades.
Using dance to tell the story is a rather refreshing way of looking at mental illness. Bringing a rather physical or visceral effect to it all.