The International Film Awards has been a major highlight of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival since the very first year. Although we are unable to invite you to meet our award-winning filmmakers in person this year, we are delighted to reveal all the winners and share with you some messages, clips and reflections on the films below.
The standard of submissions we received this year was higher than ever and it was extremely difficult for our selectors to narrow it down to a shortlist, and our jury to just ten winners. The titles below include work from Egypt, Ireland, France, Iran and the USA, as well as from Scotland and the wider UK, ranging from large-scale features like Born To Be and Certified Mail, to student productions and work by first-time filmmakers, like My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet. and The Voices From Inside. We are also delighted that seven out of the ten winners are from female directors, reflecting our aims to promote diversity across our programme. As always, the vast majority of these films emerge from personal experience and we are humbled by the bravery, honesty and compassion that drove these filmmakers and the subjects of their films to share their stories with others.
Many of these films are screening online over the next few weeks at SMHAF, with weekly discussions held via Zoom, so please look out for links to more of these very soon. We hope to show all of the award-winning titles – one way or another – over the course of the year.
Congratulations to all our award-winners – we are honoured that you chose to share your films with us and very much look forward to sharing them with our audiences.
My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet., Freddie Griffiths
An insightful animated documentary short unravelling the state of mind of the director's late alcoholic father through the poems he left behind.
Acceptance Message: Freddie Griffiths (director)
"I want to say a huge thank you to SMHAF for my award. It means a lot to me. To receive an award at any festival is a huge honor, but for my film to be recognized at a festival that shares my core beliefs in celebrating the creative outlets around experiences of mental health, it makes it all the more important to me. After my film’s release, I was touched by how many people reached out to me from all around the world who resonated with my dad’s story, whether it be them personally or people they watched go through something similar. It’s clear that my story is something that so many have been through and it was humbling to see the impact of it.
Using creative outlets to shine a light on mental health issues is important and festivals, such as SMHAF, championing this allows a platform for so many, like those who reached out to me, to hear these personal experiences and help end this stigma around mental health. Thank you."
Trailer: My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet.
Jury Comment: Iain Cunningham (documentary filmmaker and SMHAF 2019 award winner)
"In this film, Freddie Griffiths Interprets his dad Huw's occasionally bleak but beautiful poetry through animation, and in doing so gently walks himself and the viewer towards an understanding of his father. It gives voice to Huw and to his addiction, and to the mental and physical interference that fizzes through the scenes of his daily life. It’s an example of the powerful conversation that can sometimes happen in personal documentary film between a film maker and a person they’ve lost. One informs the other, the words and the pictures, the subject and the film maker, Father and son. It's spare and unsentimental, and deeply moving."
DELTA 7EVEN, Rosie Baldwin
A post-punk band made up of adults with learning disabilities discover their resilience, united strength and the power of creativity following the heartbreaking death of one of their band members.
Acceptance Message: Rosie Baldwin (director), crew and band members
Jury Comment: Jassy Earl (photographer, film-maker and performance maker)
"DELTA 7EVEN was for me, an absolutely stand out film amongst this year’s nominees. It’s a film that celebrates neurodiversity, inclusion, friendship and music and becomes a film entirely different to the film it begins as. It is no straightforward navigation of grief, and presents the complexities of joy and heart break in being human, together. It is too, an ode to the power of music as a site for community, language, expression and liberation.
It is a film that reminded me so much of the brilliant work that my friends; Geraldine, Pete and Kim do at Kor Records."
Born To Be, Tania Cypriano
A powerful documentary focusing on transgender and non-binary people's experiences with mental health, stigma and human rights from the perspective of patients of groundbreaking surgeon Dr Jess Ting.
Acceptance Message: Tania Cypriano (director)
“I want to take a moment to extend my sincere thanks for the award you have presented to Born to Be. Receiving this award from the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is a great honor. This award particularly recognizes our work and it gives an amazing feeling of getting awarded for the efforts that my team and I had put in. This project has truly been a labor of love. This film will shine some light on the struggles and prejudices that transgender people are dealing with on a daily basis. Hopefully after watching our film, viewers will receive a message of hope, acceptanceand inclusiveness directed to today’s turbulent world.”
Trailer: Born To Be
Jury Comment: Karen Lally (See Me Community Champion & Advisory Group Chair)
"Born To Be is a powerful, moving, insightful film that exposes the incredible challenges, stigma, prejudice, and cruelty that can blight trans people’s lives, while revealing the toll this takes on mental health. Through Dr Jess Ting, pioneering head surgeon at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery NYC, we meet a diverse group of patients from the trans community and learn how deep the wounds they bear can be (44% of transgender patients attempt suicide). In turns heartbreaking, hopeful, and uplifting, Born To Be reminds us of the deeply destructive nature of prejudice, the power of kindness and compassion, and the fact things aren’t always as simple as we want them to be."
Partner Comment: Maeve Grindall (Social Movement Support Officer, See Me)
"See Me has chosen this film to sponsor because of Born To Be’s strength in highlighting the destructive effect of stigma and discrimination on mental health, in particular in the trans community. In Scotland members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to experience mental health problems than the population at large, exposing them to dual stigma, and the inevitable suffering it causes."
Certified Mail, Hisham Saqr
When her husband is sent to prison following a mistake at work, Hala is left alone to deal with her depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as looking after her baby.
Acceptance Message: Hisham Saqr (director)
Jury Comment: Tobias Dietrich, film scholar and curator at the University of Bremen
"This tender and gently arranged portrayal of a troubled yet strong young woman and mother within the social and architectonical interlacings of the city of Cairo is an outstanding and refreshing piece of female mental health storytelling. Overcoming easy-to-nod-through explanations, like it is society alone that would make you sick, Hisham Saqr’s Certified Mail engaged me through the high poetic density of its heroine’s sensitive interactions with her world. I felt highly grateful to witness a film team working closely on a vision such nuanced and open to complexity and esteem of a character that refuses hasty insights and that gains its strength from the deep despair she confronts herself with. Above the city, this film leaves you at the admiration of endurance and the plea to recognise what you have hard time to accept of yourself."
Trailer: Certified Mail
Tangle, Maliheh Gholamzadeh
A beautiful animation about people who are forced to leave their homes and loved ones behind in war and the threads that keep them connected.
Acceptance Message: Maliheh Gholamzadeh (director)
"Hearing about this festival was the only good news I’ve heard recently. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the jury and the programming team. Here I strongly wish to emphasise a message to you and all the people around the world, from my fellow citizens and I:
We want nothing but peace, friendship and tranquility for all the people and the planet. Let's hope and work for a day with no war on earth, ever after.
Thank you all for your support of Tangle, a film which is an attribute to condemn wars of any kind on earth. I hope for a day when we all solve our problems by ideas and words. Thank you."
Jury Comment: Mahmud Al-Gailani, Equality and Development Coordinator, VOX Scotland
"This short animation from Iran, is about the tragedy of war and conflict and its effects on the people that experience it, even if they were not on the front line. It explores people’s connections with loss, loss of not just the physical of place, home/country and material objects but of parts of people’s identities and what makes them whole. People often strive to survive by finding a balance of the good and bad experiences that make us who we are but that can also be trying to break us at the same time a tough tug of war - if you can excuse the pun - between hope and depression."
Home, Jen Randall
A soulful documentary following Sarah Outen as she travels over 20,000 miles by human power alone, taking her to the mental and physical brink.
Acceptance Message: Jen Randall (director)
"Thank you so much for this special award. It's a very brave, personal thing to share your struggles as well as your triumphs with the world, and as I got to know Sarah's story through making Home, her bravery became ever more apparent in its many forms. It's incredibly meaningful when a story such as this one - an adventure film on the surface - travels beyond its expected audience, and the power of shared experiences starts to help others get through their difficult times too. That's why we're very proud to be part of this festival - thank you!"
Jury Comment: Gail Aldam, Arts and Events Manager, Mental Health Foundation
"Home is an incredible story of human endurance, following Sarah Outen’s journey as she crossed the globe over 4.5 years, in an attempt to break world records and confront her emotional trauma. Often using diary footage that Sarah recorded herself as she travelled alone and expertly threaded together by director Jen Randell, Home succeeds in drawing you in to her journey. You feel the joy, hope, frustration, and grief with her, appreciate the amazing characters she meets along the way, and root for her to succeed. At a time when our outdoor activity limited, sharing Sarah’s journey with her journey seems all the more significant."
Home is showing online at SMHAF from 25-31 May.
I’ll Love You Till The End, Bex Singleton
Through recounting her own experience of her father’s suicide, and capturing revealing interviews with mothers, sisters and brothers, director Bex Singleton opens a window into what happens for those left behind when someone takes their own life.
Acceptance Message: Bex Singleton (director)
Jury Comment: Julie Cameron, Associate Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mental Health Foundation
"Bex Singleton brings an immensely personal film where she shares her own experience of her father’s suicide. The film sensitively explores complex emotions such as regret and grief through subtle reflections in interviews with six others impacted by suicide.
I’ll Love You Till The End explores the core question family and friends are often left in the wake of the tragedy of suicide; Why? The film also highlights the stark realities around known risk factors, such as the increase in suicide risk to those that themselves have experienced a friend of family member’s suicide.
I'll Love You Till The End is an amazing film and one I’d highly recommend. Yes, it is immensely sad but the beauty of this film is that the overriding emotion you are left with is hope. Hope comes through in each person’s testimony, so sensitively captured by Bex, a person who is so used to asking the questions but for this film is brave enough to turn the camera on herself to show the power in sharing different perspectives and the hope this can bring to us all."
Trailer: I'll Love You Till The End
That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore, Hannah Currie
An emotional documentary exploring whether Lindsay's love for her husband Paul can sustain her through the trauma of his brain injury, which leaves him in a perpetual loop of joke telling.
Acceptance Message: Hannah Currie (director)
Jury Comment: Brian Reid, Retired Recreational Therapy Team Lead at Leverndale Hospital, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde
"Nothing can prepare you for the quiet power, intense emotion and gentle humour of this masterful documentary. Life for Paul and his wife Lindsay is altered by a single tragic event which transforms their relationship forever. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore conveys the isolation, desolation and frustration often experienced by full time carers and the compassion and resilience required to face each repetitive, demanding day with renewed strength and commitment.
Lindsay finds solace and comfort in nature. Her relationship with her animals and the beautiful landscape around her may nurture her and provide hope and consolation: but is that enough? "I don't feel particularly loved. I don't. I feel needed.""
Clip: That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore is showing online at SMHAF for one day only on Thursday 21 May.
Troubles, Jonathan Harden
When a troubled traditional Irish musician reenters the fold after a long absence, his emotionally stunted friend wants to offer an apology.
Acceptance Message: Jonathan Harden (director)
Programmer Comment: Emily Benita (Film Coordinator, Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival)
“After a gripping opening sequence, Troubles unfolds into a sensitive portrayal of two men struggling to connect to their emotions and reconnect to each other. The writing and performances are outstanding, making for a uniquely intimate viewing experience.”
Troubles is showing online at SMHAF from 18-24 May.
Voices of Experience
The Voices From Inside, Elina Chared
A portrait of Marianne, a woman who fights to live with the voices she hears inside her, while supporting others in her community as they navigate their own journeys with mental health.
Acceptance Message: Elina Chared (director)
"First of all I would like to congratulate the team of the Mental Health Arts Festival of Glasgow for scrambling to make this online edition exist due to this virus crisis. Of course, it is a bit frustrating to not be able to meet you in person. Thank you for programming and awarding my film the Voice of Experience prize. Really, I am touched. One more time, I would like to warmly thank the main protagonist Marianne and all the team and friends, teachers and family that support me for making this film.I would like also to address a special thought to all people that live under the lockdown a tough isolated moment. What I am experiencing here in Marseille, in France, is because of the fear of contamination, police control, and lack of money… Our mental health have been severely tested during these past weeks. I think that we will have to take in consideration those after-effects in our future social life outlook. Not everyone has a unicorn to call. Take care."
Trailer: The Voices From Inside
Jury Comment: Rob Dickie, Festival Officer, Mental Health Foundation
"The Voices of Experience award is presented to a film which meaningfully captures the experience of living with mental health problems. Elina Chared’s first documentary takes us into the daily life of Marianne, who has lived with hearing voices since her teenage years. She is a vibrant and uncompromising character with a tremendous force of personality, working to understand her own mind but also supporting others in her community as they navigate both the voices from inside and the mental health system. Chared’s direction creates space for Marianne to speak but uses striking visual shots to return to a sense of interiority, always bringing us back to the challenges she is fighting against and the strength that she possesses."
The Voices From Inside is showing online at SMHAF from 1-7 June.