We are screening 37 titles from Scotland, the UK, and around the world, featuring inspiring, diverse and often unforgettable stories that address mental health and the theme of ‘Normality?’. Plus, we invite you to an online ceremony to celebrate the winners of this year’s International Film Awards and present a series of online participatory workshops and panel discussions exploring the possibilities of using film to explore mental health and wellbeing.
Feature films – from Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Georgia and Switzerland – include Scottish premieres of Neighbors, an uplifting and quietly powerful documentary by Tomislav Žaja which follows a group of people as they readjust to normality after living for decades in a Croatian psychiatric institution; and Judy Versus Capitalism, Mike Hoolboom’s experimental documentary about radical feminist Judy Rebick’s experiences as an activist and with trauma and mental illness.
We are delighted to present the International premiere of Love Bound, a unique and thought-provoking documentary filmed in a quiet therapy room about five parents struggling to support their adult children with mental illness, which is showing alongside the extraordinary short documentary Imogen about a family striving to understand their daughter’s life and battle with mental illness after her death.
And there are three UK premieres: Dead Souls’ Vacation, an absurd, intimate slice of post-Soviet life, chronicling the relationship between a once-popular Georgian musician and his elderly mother, I’ll Be Your Mirror, in which filmmaker Johanna Faust goes on a journey to understand her identity as a mother and artist in the context of a complex family history of bipolar disorder, and Certified Mail, an Egyptian film which won the Feature Drama award at SMHAF 2020 about a woman left alone to manage depression and suicidal thoughts while caring for her young baby.
Curated short film programmes also feature in each week of the festival. Normality? I focuses on how neurodiversity, health conditions, body image and sexuality affects our mental health, while Normality? II presents radical and experimental work that reframes how we might think about mental health in different contexts.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, we will explore the relationship between Nature, mental health and wellbeing, and in Lived Experience, we present personal stories of mental health issues, through drama, documentary and animation. Grief explores loss in various forms, giving an insight into how people – individually and collectively – experience it, process it, and live with it.
As well as screening all our award-winners, we are thrilled to be presenting a number of world premieres, including A Glimpse, the moving debut film by acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and director Zinnie Harris; Like You Know It All, an experimental work by Ji-Yoon Park based on audio interviews with a telephone counsellor at Lifeline Korea; Fatboy, a biographical film about body image by previous SMHAF award-winner Dan Castro; and Umbilical, the debut short by filmmaker and theatre actor Elpida Stathatou, an engaging drama about the impact of emotional abuse. There are so many extraordinary films in the selection, and we encourage you to explore as widely and deeply as you can.
How To Watch
Film screenings will take place at INDY On Demand and we have created a guide to help you get set up with a free account. Tickets are available on a pay what you can basis, giving you the option to choose a price of £6, £4, £2 or FREE based on your personal circumstances.
Festival passes, giving you access to the entire screening programme, are also accessibly priced at £15 or £10 for concessions. Please support the festival by paying the right price for you.
Every screening will include a live Zoom Q&A with filmmakers, participants and mental health professionals, with BSL interpretation or live captioning available upon request.
These conversations are a vital part of the festival and give people the opportunity to talk about the issues raised by the films in a safe and welcoming space. These are booked separately on Eventbrite and we look forward to you joining us for some of these discussions.
Workshops & Panel Discussions
Our workshop programme kicks off on Wednesday 5 May with DOCMA, a filmmaking workshop giving you the opportunity to contribute to a 5-minute documentary film made by 5 filmmakers in 5 different documentary styles, inspired by the themes of Nature and Normality?. The completed films will be screened at the end of the festival and added to the ever-growing DOCMA archive.
Screen Test is a workshop focusing on interactive exercises for curious creative practitioners, with a view to exploring the future of made-for-screen pieces. The award-winning playwright, performer and poet, Hannah Lavery, will be joined by Zinnie Harris and Elpida Stathatou, who both have an extensive background in theatre and are presenting their distinctive debut films at SMHAF 2021.
Finally, we are delighted to share a selection of short films produced through a new enterprise, FilmMedicine, which supports postgrad students at the University of Edinburgh to make documentaries that explore illness and health. The films have one thing in common – they bring a fresh eye to our understanding of illnesses of the body and mind, and a visual energy to recovery or acceptance. The films will be made available to view on this website, before a panel discussion chaired by director Amy Hardie.
International Film Awards
Finally, join us for our online International Film Awards ceremony to find out more about each of the award-winners, see clips from the films, meet some award-wining filmmakers, and discover the recipient of the Grand Jury Prize.
On the evening of Monday 3rd May, we will present a livestreamed video on our social media channels, before inviting you to join us for a live Zoom reception to celebrate these films with many of the people involved in making them. Register now to book your place.
Congratulations to all our award-winners, who have all created these films to raise awareness, document personal stories, or challenge perceptions about mental health, and we look forward to sharing more about them in the coming weeks. Follow the links to book tickets to see them.
Congratulations to all the award winners. Click on the images below to view clips and acceptance speeches, and, most importantly, find out how you can watch these films online.