Au Contraire Film Festival’s opening night on October 25th took place at the sumptuous theatre at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The crowd was elegant, engaged and lively.
The evening commenced with very encouraging words from the festival’s co-founder and director, Mr. Marcel Pinchevsky emphasizing the importance of the festival to assist in destigmatizing issues concerning mental health. True to its moniker as the only bilingual (French/English) mental health film festival in the world, the proceedings were bilingual, including French subtitles for the festival’s opening film in English.
An introduction speech was given by Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the MMFA, who are a major partner to the film festival. Ms. Bondil expressed her delight in partnering with the festival to assist with issues of stigmatization regarding mental health. She also mentioned that a new pavilion will open in a few days that will include more space for their already existing art therapy programs as well as clinics as part of the Sharing the Museum Programme.
The introductions were followed by a short but very heartfelt routine by comedian Christophe Davidson. Mr. Davidson is a Montrealer who returned to share his experiences with mental illness through humour, truth, and lots of laughs. His stand-up routine was very well received and thought provoking as he shared his own personal struggles and those of family members.
After Mr. Davidson’s comedy act, the film for the opening night, Patient’s Rite by Issa Ibrahim, was presented. Mr. Ibrahim, a New Yorker who wrote, acted and produced the film, used humour, music, and other forms of art to illustrate his struggle with mental illness over two decades in and out of institutions. Despite the comic relief, the content of the film was disturbing as it illustrated the many diagnoses that Mr. Ibrahim received over the years and how many difficult, sometimes tragic situations were created by his struggles.
After the comedy routine and the film presentation, there was a very intimate and heart-felt exchange with the comedian, Christophe Davidson and producer of the film, Patient’s Rites, Issa Ibrahim. This Q and A session was facilitated by two psychiatrists who expressed their admiration for the two performers. The audience then participated by asking many in-depth questions about the two panelists’ struggles with mental health and how it has affected their art. Both gentlemen were very forthcoming with their comments, adding a great deal of wit and honesty to their responses.
The evening ended on a very pleasant note with a dessert and wine reception in one of the beautiful halls of the museum. The discussion was dynamic and both performers shared animated discussions with the crowd.
Au Contraire Film Festival ran from Oct 25-28.