5 Docs to See at Rendezvous with Madness Festival

Conviction opens this year’s Rendezvous with Madness Festival on Oct. 10
Photo courtesy of the NFB

This year’s Rendezvous with Madness Festival wants audiences to #GetMad. The hashtag doesn’t want audiences to take the message literally. We don’t really need any more Twitter outrage these days.

Instead, the #GetMad campaign inspires festivalgoers to share their stories. There’s great power in unburdening one’s chest. Hashtag or no hashtag, sharing a tell can relieve one’s sense of isolation and erase the stigma surrounding mental illness that prevents others from speaking out whether by tweet, private letter, or conversation.

The 2019 edition of Rendezvous with Madness shares with audiences stories of mental illness that further this conversation. It’s an especially important showcase of films to spotlight, particularly when major blockbusters like Joker present dangerously ambivalent portrayals of mental illness and violence on screens nationwide. (Okay, you can get mad about that film!) Running from October 10 to 20, RWM offers 14 feature films, a handful of shorts, four concerts, a visual and media arts exhibition, and a live comedy show.

Here are five documentary highlights at this year’s Rendezvous with Madness Festival:


Thurs, Oct. 10 @ 6:30pm | Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

This year’s festival kicks off on Thurs, Oct. 10, World Mental Health Day, with a special screening of Nance Ackerman, Teresa MacInnes, and Ariella Pahlke’s NFB doc Conviction. A hit at Hot Docs earlier this year, Conviction focuses on the experiences of women in Canada’s correctional facilities. The doc invites a conversation on rehabilitation and restoration with hopes to understand the mechanisms that give inmates the tools they need to re-enter society and avoid becoming repeat offenders. Reviewing Conviction at Hot Docs, Liam Lacey called it a “touchingly personal view of inmate life.” Following the screening of Conviction, director Ariella Pahlke will join subject Tanya Bignell in a panel discussion along with guests with lived experience of incarceration, Senator Kim Pate, and representatives from the Elizabeth Fry Society.

Conviction (Trailer 90 sec.) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.


Fri, Oct. 11 @ 8:00pm | Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario

Audiences looking for a wilder ’do at RWM might want to check out Foxy, a unique doc-musical hybrid that weaves personal memoir with fictional inspiration. Director Trista Suke explores the social stigma surrounding hair loss—it doesn’t only afflict aging men!—and confronts the consumerist image of beauty that says fuller is better. Using songs and alter-egos to complement the speakers who sit down with Suke to discuss their experiences, Foxy celebrates women who are brave to go bald. This screening of Foxy includes several short films that take animated and experimental approaches to conversations surrounding mental illness.


Tues, Oct. 15 @ 7:00pm | Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario

Last year’s winner of the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival, Chaos examines an oft-overlooked aspect of the global migration crisis: mental illness. Director Sara Fattahi gives voice to three women, including herself, to convey the impact of displacement on the human mind. Using a mix of performance, verité, and cinematic impressions, Fattahi conveys an experience that is often hard to put into words and, as a result, neglected. “Too many recent documentaries feel like push-button filmmaking, where filmmakers push the buttons on their cameras and also those on the participants, who seem to disgorge their reflections and experiences on cue,” wrote Richard Brody at The New Yorker. “Fattahi’s film is drastically, essentially different: it’s composed of elements that reflect back on the process of making the film, of questioning her own procedure even as she relentlessly presses ahead in its creation, as if fulfilling—calmly, coolly, methodically—both a terrifying duty and a furious inner need.”


Wed, Oct. 16 @ 7:00pm | Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario

Director Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, who brings his experience as a psychiatrist behind the camera to interrogate the mental health crisis in the USA. The situation receives a frank portrait as Rosenberg, drawing upon his encounter with the broken system when his sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia, speaks with everyday Americans who live with mental illness in a society that neglects its most vulnerable people. The film has its Canadian premiere at RWM after an acclaimed debut at Sundance where Brad Gullickson at Nonfics called it, “a stern takedown of America’s current criminalized banishment of a sickness that affects over 44 million of its citizens.” Audiences taken by Bedlam can look for Rosenberg’s book of the same name out this month. Bedlam screens with the Canadian short doc Talking at Night by Eric Thiessen.

Junha’s Planet

Fri, Oct. 18 @ 6:00pm | Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario

POV is proud to support this year’s festival by co-presenting the Canadian premiere of Junha’s Planet directed by Hyung-sook Hong. Junha’s Planet is a quiet and powerful observational documentary that addresses some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of disability and education. Junha is a 4th grader who doesn’t make friends easily. Concerned parents of Junha’s peers question whether he should be educated in the same environment as their kids. While the school advocates for Autism awareness and encourages children to support Junha, many lose their patience; including Junha. The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the current state of autism spectrum disorder support in Ontario.

Want to attend the screening? Email info@povmagazine.com for your chance to win a pair of tickets!

The 2019 Rendezvous with Madness Festival runs Oct. 10 to 20.