When Matthew Hogue came on board as programming manager for Toronto’s Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival he was a little worried that it would be difficult to program an entire festival of films about mental health and addiction. Once he started he found the trouble was actually weeding out the great films from the hundreds he sees a year. Hogue spoke with realscreen about the docs running at this year’s edition and what he’s looking for when he programs the fest.
Hogue first connected with the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival, which started in 1993, when he submitted a film about his brother, Portrait of My Brother as a Young Man, and it was accepted into the festival. Having his own connection with mental illness – his brother was diagnosed with mental illness after having a brain tumor removed – Hogue was drawn to the festival and its mandate to try to remove the stigma around mental health and addiction through films on the subject.
In his time at the festival Hogue has seen the event, its films and accompanying discussions, do just that. For instance, at last year’s festival a fiction film entitled Devrai, which looked at schizophrenia and how it affected a South Asian family, brought out a large number of people from the Indian community. ‘They came out and watched the panel discussion and the film and got so engaged,’ remembers Hogue. ‘I kept hearing again and again, ‘This is the first time I’ve heard anything like this, I’d never understood this before.’ This is just one community and I use it as an example, but really it’s true of every single screening. People come out to the festival and their opinions change, it’s that simple.’
When Hogue and his team program the fest they look for films that will open eyes. But first and foremost, he’s looking for good films. ‘I don’t care how on point it is, if this is a film that is going to alienate an audience through sheer boredom, it doesn’t get in.’
This year’s festival runs over 10 days and features an almost equal number of documentaries and fiction films on the subject matter. One doc Hogue is particularly excited to show to a Toronto audience is Prodigal Sons by American director Kimberly Reed, which has screened and won awards at festivals such as Telluride and the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. ‘It just has to be seen to be believed,’ says Hogue about Reed’s verité-style film about her family and, in particular, her brother who has suffered from a head injury. ‘If you wrote this film as a fiction piece, forget it. No one would believe it.’
For the first time this year the festival will feature talks by artist and psychiatrists about filmmaking techniques and mental illness. Included in this program will be Oscar winning director/animator Chris Landreth (Ryan) who will discuss his ‘psychorealism’ technique and how he uses the psychology and the emotions of his human subjects to shape their look in his films.
The Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival starts November 5.