Even at the best of times, filmmaking tends to be an all-encompassing and exhausting process. But when people delve into their own life stories and present them for all to see on the big screen, it truly becomes a labour of passion.

Many of the valiant films in this year’s programme involve individuals who are willing to openly explore what mental health means to them, whether they are in front of the camera, behind it or both. These brave and generous people deserve our gratitude and attention. The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival is proud to provide a platform for this important cinematic work to reach wider audiences and spark invaluable conversations.

More than ever before, SMHAFF is responsible for screening film firsts. Good Girl and Ida’s Diary, two daring and revealing Norwegian documentaries, are being shown in Scotland for the first time. Dancing with Maria, an entertaining and instructive look at a dance teacher in her 90s, is having its UK premiere, as are Juanicas, Karen Garcia Casanova’s exploration of her Mexican family’s challenging experiences in Canada, and The Silence of the Flies, which examines a mysterious suicide epidemic in the Venezuelan Andes. Dead When I Got Here, set in a mental asylum run by its own patients, receives its European debut at the Festival.

Many of these films have been selected from submissions to our International Film Competition – the quality of the work received this year was so impressive that to pass it by for programming would have been to overlook some of the very best films available. That was certainly the case for Garnet’s Gold, from the producer of Academy Award-winning documentaries Man on Wire and Searching for Sugar Man, and The Closer We Get, which won Best International Documentary Feature at the prestigious Hot Docs festival earlier this year.

One of the most exciting aspects of this year’s core film programme is that half the features showcased are directed by women – a gender balance rarely found in a notoriously male-dominated industry. By screening films such as Rocks in My Pockets, Signe Baumane’s critically-acclaimed animation on five of her ancestors’ quest for sanity, the Festival has created an opportunity to observe female directors at the forefront of autobiographical and intensely personal filmmaking. 

Special presentations in collaboration with Document International Human Rights Film Festival – 9999 – and Southside Film Festival – Sunset Boulevard – round out a selection of films spirited in both content and approach. All are certain to stimulate vigorous comment and debate in post-screening discussions, which, as ever, have the potential to be as fascinating as the films themselves.

Every single title in the programme has taken a huge effort to create. These films not only have their hearts in the right place but glow with impassioned artistry. We hope you will be as moved and inspired by the selection as we are.

Richard Warden