Breaking Down Barriers with the Au Contraire Film Festival

Dura Dura. One of the films playing at the ACFF

In Montreal, we are lucky to have an array of film festivals celebrating people from all walks of life at our fingertips. From the Montreal Underground Film Festival, which celebrates the darker side of filmmaking, to the more mainstream Festival du Nouveau Cinema to the Montreal LGBT Film Festival, which is pretty self-explanatory, we, as Montrealers, have plenty to choose from. Did you know, though, that we have a film festival which celebrates mental health and illness? The second annual Au Contraire Film Festival is starting up on Wednesday, October 22 and is sure to not only bring awareness to serious issues concerning mental illness, but also entertain.

The Au Contraire Film Festival (ACFF) was started in 2013 by founder Philip Silverberg and in conjunction with Paradis Urbain and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Its mission? Simple. “To challenge myths and change the perspectives surrounding mental illness.” Many view those with mental illness as weak, crazy or a burden on society, but the ACFF aims to prove these harmful opinions wrong by exploring different dimensions of mental illness through film. As mental illness is an issue that is often looked down upon, not just by the public, but also at the governmental level, this festival offers a rare stage for people whose voices are widely ignored. It also wishes to highlight the fact that recovery and rehabilitation are possible. Another interesting aspect of the festival that sets it apart from others is that there will be many post-screening panels with the filmmakers, mental health specialists as well as academics in order to encourage audience interaction and education.

The ACFF is a four-day long event, running from October 22 at 7:00 p.m. until October 25 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It will present feature length films and documentaries as well as animations and shorts, so there is sure to be something for everyone. Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include; John Kastner’s documentary Out of Mind, Out of Sight, which is the 2014 Hot Docs winner of Best Canadian documentary, will be opening the festival as well as Justin Rowe’s documentary Crazy Art, which is about the relationship between mental illness and creativity. The ACFF also has a Youth Awareness Program, which will be screening two films to 600 Montreal high school students on the topic of  “Cannabis and Psychosis.”

Mental illness is an issue of which many people, more than you may know, are affected by. By creating open forums, such as the ACFF, in which people can discuss and be educated on this issue freely, the stigma that often goes along with mental can be erased.

For more information about the ACFF, please visit their website The festival takes place October 22-25. Tickets start at $10 with VIP options available.