29th Rendezvous with Madness Festival – 5 Favourite Films with Feelings

Sometimes we talk about mental health, because it’s a very important subject. Especially given me and my conditions. Some of the more recent events of my life have lead to worse issues than before. But me and many artists and filmmakers, we don’t let our mental health issues drag us down and prevent us from making art. The Rendezvous with Madness Festival is one festival of the good madness we get from watching and making films. Having started on October 28 and ending on the 7th, the festival had 68 films from 18 different countries, and even screened both online and in-person. Since my paranoia is still getting the best and worst of me during these trying times, I opted to stick to the online variant. Since I also can’t possibly cover all 68 films (trust me, that would be too much for this article), I watched 5 of the best documentaries offered by this program. Here are my thoughts on the Delightful Documentaries I saw:

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy – To start off the festival, this was the opening film, a 2-hour documentary from Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and the cool creators of NFB. Telling the story of the Kainai Nation in Southern Alberta, and how they’ve dealt with addiction. Everyone of that Blackfoot community either has or known someone who got addicted to Fentanyl and died. Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, who happens to be one of the few doctors in the community and the mother of Elle studies drugs and how common overdoses are. The health care officials of Kainai plan to go to Downtown Eastside and learn more about drugs and overdosing. After that little trip, it almost worries the people that this might be their future for the community. Other ways they try to help is find an alternative for Opiod, helping alcoholics, and even creating a special program in their community much like some of the organizations for addicts in DTES. The drug and alcohol addicts like the idea and decide to start a program that will help improve them over time. Elle also explores healing centres and rehabilitation clinics to see how they are helping, the history of what went on in their land from railroads to people consuming grass to survive, what the paramedics do, and what special areas and facilities are available for addicts. The documentary shows a lot of stories in one small location and you learn so much. One story that’s rather intense is the story of George Calling Last who went to drugs in his teenage years and sent him on a rigorous path of life for years. I’ve seen many documentaries and films about First Nations people, but I’ve never seen one about the side-effects of drugs. It’s like a fresh new concept or even a combination of concepts. The whole thing did go on quite a while, but there was so much information that it was helpful. Seeing what people were doing was amazing, the interviews were simple but still well done, and a lot of the shots, especially the land shots, those were cool. Ultimately though, it was a pretty sad film with seeing how badly people got affected.

North By Current – Angelo Madsen Minax is a trans filmmaker, and he has decided to North By Current, by which I mean back to his hometown. Why? Angelo has decided to create a family portrait. Not just any old portrait though, something the explores the family and what they are like. It’s not easy at first, for starters Angelo’s hometown is in a rural area of Michigan where rivers and sawmills are everywhere, and don’t even get me started on the weather. Once the family reconnects though over breakfast at a restaurant, they don’t seem to converse very much at first. According to Angelo, it has happened three times and he even recalls dreaming it. The family reconnected because of a rather tragic incident of Angelo’s nieces death. During the time there, the family reveals the story about what may have caused the death, how it took its toll on everyone involved, and how it helped Angelo’s mother become more open to Angelo becoming trans. Angelo’s sister Jesse explains how she and her ex-lover were framed for child abuse when she knew that was highly unlikely. Eventually they end up talking about something else: they talk more about themselves. The parents go deep into their lives about being Mormon, Jesse talks about what it’s like to raise 3 kids, and her state of distress as well as her first overdose a decade ago. It’s a documentary that tackles so many subjects, but the main focus is family, and despite what happens they stay together and learn to appreciate each other for who they are. The interviews are genuine, the shots are simple yet well framed, and the many stories involved have a sense of you feeling like you’re there. The really old footage used for b-roll gives a good vintage feel that gives you feels of the olden days. There’s a lot of stories to be told when it comes to families, and that shows in this doc.

Jacinta – A mother and daughter duo spend their time together… in prison? Yeah, this is interesting. Jacinta was born when her mother Rosemary was only 16. It starts out at a correctional facility out in Maine. Jacinta will soon be released but Rosemary has to spend more time in prison as her sentence is more dense. After Jacinta leaves, she reunites with her brother Shaun and her father Rick and moves into a sober house. Despite her return and attempts to unwind with her housemates, Jacinta still feels alone without her mother and her daughter Caylynn whom she had in her teenage years. The two do manage to reunite and it’s an adorable sight to see them bond together as they go shopping together. Even Caylynn’s grandmother appreciates the love they have for each other. Jacinta feels that she needs to get an actual job so she can focus on her life and get it back on the right track again. She also relapse to drugs every now and then and after one particular incident, Jacinta is kicked out of her sober house and takes up living with her boyfriend, Lucky. He’s a nice wee-mannered individual who is anti-drug but still loves her for who she is. We also get to meet Jacinta’s older brother Todd who has also had a history of incarceration, much like their mother. Family members and people who know Jacinta personally and talk about what the drugs have done to her and how drugs have affected them too. In fact, even her incarcerated mother is recommending Jacinta to give up heroin and check into a rehab clinic. Eventually Jacinta does get into detoxing with the help of Lucky, but it doesn’t seem to last long. This was a pretty dark and disturbing documentary. Even though these people love Jacinta and care for her, they’re concerned that she may never exit her cycle of addiction, incarceration and really bad choices. Despite the disturbing details, it is a very sincere documentary that really goes into details on what happens to somebody and how difficult it is for someone to stop a bad habit. Depressing but informative, so I enjoyed it. It’s like a really long PSA about drugs.

Poly Styrene: I am a Cliche – Meet Celeste Bell. Her mother was Poly Styrene, a Punk Rocker. Poly Styrene died recently, and Celeste has been thrust into taking care of Poly Styrene’s legacy. But just how can she do it? First Celeste organizes and sorts through everything of her mother’s, be it lyrics, photographs, and more. Next, Celeste puts together her mom’s life, discovers her mixed family roots, and learns so much about the Punk scene. Next, she reminisces about the past and talks about what it was like clothes shopping with her mother, as well as sitting in recording studios. It’s also revealed Poly Styrene moved on from Punk and went into a band called X-Ray Spex. We also learn that things aren’t always as they seem given not only Poly Styrene’ being a mixed race, but also having a case of bipolar disorder. A great dive into the 80s with vibrant colours, catchy beats and stories from people who knew Celeste’s mother as well as interesting moments of childhood from Celeste’s memory, this documentary was an upbeat and totally wild film with lots of passion and love for a mother.

Drunk On Too Much Life – A story about a lady named Corrina, as made by her mother, Michelle Melles. Corrina reveals how in her school days she was insulted and shunned by so many of her classmates, and how her life felt so dark and disturbing. Before she knew it, Corrina started suffering from depression and this greatly affects her family. But hospitalization and doctors diagnoses didn’t affect Corrina too much as she takes on a new interest in art with painting, poetry, and singing. But there are drawbacks, like the side effects of medication, and the discomfort of hospital stays. But Michelle takes inspiration from Corinna with her love for nature, and understanding stories. She also talks to other people with conditions and learns about their artistic talents, as we do as well. This was one interesting documentary that I felt I could relate to. The music was beautiful and pretty, the paintings were amazing with the bright colours, the nature scenes in parks and beaches were soothing, and the people involved gave some heartfelt statements in the whole thing. It also reveals some interesting things about consciousness, especially among those who somehow seem more in tune with culture. It is the closing film, so check it out while you can.

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