The Au Contraire Film Festival (ACFF) celebrates its fifth year this week. The festival presents films and documentaries about mental health as well as having panels of discussion to continue the conversation. As Philip Silverberg, founder of the festival, said in a phone interview, the project started by partnering with Paradis Urbain, a registered charity whose mission is to help anyone living with a mental illness regain control on their life so they can move forward. The founder states that “one of the ways we want to help is to spread the word about mental illness and to de-stigmatize it. That’s how we developed the Au Contraire Film Festival.”
With more than 300 submissions worldwide, the festival has selected about 20 films that will be presented over four days. For this 5th anniversary year, the theme of the festival remains the same, as explained by Silverberg: “The theme that we have is quite simple. We want to be entertaining because no one comes to a festival not to be entertained. We want to raise awareness about mental illness through the edgy presentation of edgy movies. We also want to educate through our panel of discussion.”
The Au Contraire Film Festival explores the relationship between creativity and mental illness. On Wednesday, October 25, La Soirée Lumière will be held, a benefit event for ACFF and Week-ends Champêtres. During this special evening, a film will be presented in addition to the live performance of la Troupe des Audacieux, followed by two medium-length films, including the Canadian premiere of Hum directed by Nathan Fagan.
Asked about the importance of exploring the relationship between creativity and mental illness, Philip Sliverberg responds that “we believe that movies have many benefits to de-stigmatize [mental illness]. First of all, it allows a dimension of expression. Two, we discovered that by crafting the programs, we can pinpoint different targets like the youth – we do a youth awareness program now. This year we’re doing a human resources program as well and we do an animation program. It allowed us to really get the attention of an audience in a different way. The other thing about film is that it’s an anonymous experience. If someone has a mental health issue and they don’t know what to do, and suddenly decides to come to any one of the films, they can see that they are not alone. “
The festival is associated with the singer Florence K, who acts as spokesperson. The artist will give an opening address that will be followed by a screening of the Canadian premiere of Vincent Sabella’s film Elizabeth Blue, on the indestructible nature of love despite mental illness. It is important to talk about mental illnesses, which still remains a subject of prejudice and misunderstanding. Philip Silverberg is optimistic and says that “more and more people are willing to present themselves or to associate themselves with movies of this nature. We are just another way to have the conversation.”
The Au Contraire Film Festival will be held from October 24 to 27. For the full festival schedule, visit the ACFF website.