Kíimmapiiypitssini: The Meaning of Empathy opens Rendezvous with Madness | Seen Through Woman Prod / NFB

Rendezvous with Madness Docs Spotlight Mental Health

Fest runs Oct. 28 - Nov. 7.

9 mins read

Toronto’s Rendezvous with Madness Festival returns to engage audiences in conversation about mental health and wellness through a mix of film screenings, theatrical performances, and interactive works. The films might be difficult, but any dark clouds one encounters within the RWM line-up speaks to the festival’s necessity—especially right now. As lockdown restrictions ease and life returns to “normal,” these films remind audiences of the unseen epidemics of addiction and mental illness that have grown in the past eighteen months.

This year’s Rendezvous with Madness opens with a Toronto encore of one of the most acclaimed Canadian films of the year: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ Kíimmapiiypitssini: The Meaning of Empathy. The doc offers a personal look at the director’s community of the Blackfoot tribe and observes as residents, including Tailfeathers’ mother, work together to create a holistic and community based response to the opioid crisis devastating their people. Read more about Kíimmapiiypitssini: The Meaning of Empathy in our current cover story.



Here are five more documentary highlights screening at Rendezvous with Madness this year:



Online Oct. 29 – Nov. 7

Rendezvous with Madness offers the Canadian premiere of Helena Třeštíková’s character study Anny. The film is a longitudinal portrait of Czech prostitute Anny as she walks the streets of Prague, makes a modest living, and advocates for the rights and safety of sex workers. Filmed over sixteen years, Anny observes its subject as she faces life as a maturing woman in a tough and often unforgiving trade. Despite the weighty subject matter, Třeštíková captures a life of warmth and humour as Anny does all she can to provide for her children and grandchildren. This doc offers a raw and intimate glimpse into the daily life of a sex worker, but also observes the community that Anny creates with her colleagues as they unite to sing, smoke, create theatrical performances, and advocate fiercely for people to make love, not war, as they see too many women and men victimized by violence.

POV is co-presenting the Rendezvous with Madness screening and has ticket codes to give away if you would like to attend the online screening. Just email info@povmagazine.com – first come, first served! The event includes a virtual Q&A!



Online Oct. 29 – Nov. 7

Another doc years in the making, Jacinta observes its titular subject across three years and documents ample heartache. The film begins as Jacinta finishes her second term in prison—and tearfully says goodbye to her mother with whom she’s been able to share the time in incarceration. Director Jessica Earnshaw offers a tough, no-holds-barred character study that witnesses how quickly addiction transforms lives and families. Jacinta wrestles with her obligations and love to her own daughter, but the pull of heroin quickly proves her biggest hurdle on the path to freedom. Favouring a gritty verité approach that underscores the demons with which its subject wrestles, Jacinta is a frank, surprising, and deeply moving portrait as it watches the young woman caught in a vicious cycle of falling and trying to get back up. Winner of the Albert Maysles New Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.

RWM features a live Zoom Q&A with Jessica Earnshaw on October 30th at 7:30 PM ET.



Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché

Online Oct. 29 – Nov. 7

No festival is complete with a music doc/celebrity portrait, and RWM delivers a favourite from the festival circuit with Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché. This look at Poly Styrene aka Marianne Elliott-Said, the late rocker who fronted the band X-Ray Spex, is a fond and frank study of mental health from a personal point of view. Elliott-Said’s daughter, Celeste Bell co-directs this film and doesn’t shy away from her mother’s struggles, which included being bipolar, navigating a biracial identity in the spotlight and, later, facing a mis-diagnosis for schizophrenia. “This film clearly asserts Bell as the teller of her mother’s story, a responsibility she takes seriously and does justice,” wrote Madeline Lines while reviewing the film during Hot Docs/DOXA. “Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché sees Bell put together the pieces of her mother’s life for the fans, but more importantly, for herself.”



The Last Shelter

Online Oct. 29 – Nov. 7

Ousmane Samassékou chronicles the experiences of migrants, the traumas they carry, and the refuges that offer support in The Last Shelter. The doc observes the goings-on in the House of Migrants, a shelter in Gao, Mali where refugees rest before embarking on a dangerous journey from across the Sahara desert and, eventually, to the Mediterranean and Europe. The film is an important snapshot of the migration crisis and the support networks that help people amid a growing human rights catastrophe. “Considered the last safe spot before the six-day journey across the desert, the city is a hub of human smuggling, people fleeing for escape or to new opportunities, with high risks of robbery, enslaved prostitution, and death from either natural causes or violence,” wrote Liam Lacey while reviewing The Last Shelter at Hot Docs. “To underscore the mood of resigned melancholy and trepidation, Samassékou returns us repeatedly to images of the vacant desert, accompanied by sounds of wind, eerie music, or the collective voices of the migrant house residents, a babble of fears and hopes.”



Drunk on Too Much Life

Online Oct. 29 – Nov. 7

In person Sat, Nov. 6 @ 6:30pm

While many portraits of mental health struggles run dark, Michelle Melles wonders if we can change the conversation by shifting focus to the light? Drunk on Too Much Life is a personal glimpse at Melles’ daughter, Corrina, and her mental health struggles. But the doc considers how one’s condition might actually be a positive. We’ve all heard stories of mad artists or seen biopics about creative geniuses who channelled their inner demons into radical, transformative art. The doc explores these ideas with a personal approach as Corrina and other mental health advocates inspire audiences to frame the ways in which we perceive and discuss mental health.

Drunk on Too Much Life also has panel discussion that runs both live and virtually on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 8:30pm.



Rendezvous with Madness runs Oct. 28 to Nov. 7. Screenings are a mix of in-person and online events, so please check Workman Arts’ website for details.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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