Moving away from home to start university was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Filled with enthusiasm at the idea of living far away from what I hated most about my city, I was suddenly hit by the ugliness of reality. And the aftermath was bad. The words of a nurse from my high school trying to help me after my very first panic attack resounded in my head: “If you don’t talk about it, it will get worse, until you won’t be able to leave your house anymore”.
Unfortunately, the premonition turned out to be right. Too afraid to tell my family how unhappy I was in Scotland, knowing they would want me to go back home, secretly disappointed by my weakness, I decided to pretend everything was fine. But of course that didn’t help. The only thing that seemed to give me some relief was watching films before going to bed. This is something my family has always done. Punctually, after dinner, we would all sit on the couch, pretending to watch a film, but actually just slowly falling asleep next to each other. By the time credits rolled, everyone would try and comment on a film no one had actually seen before finally heading to bed.
Since most days I was actually feeling too bad to leave my room, or my bed even, for a while I spent my time taking naps, preceded by a film. On one of my good days, I ended up talking to someone who told me about how they had managed to watch 365 films in one year. Secretly happy to accept the challenge and give some sort of direction to my new favourite hobby, I waited until New Year’s Eve to finally start counting.
Film number one was Aladdin. I watched it while drunk, miserable and surrounded by people I didn’t know that well. The underwhelming celebrations of the start of 2015 led us somehow to watch a film we all knew and loved. And deep down inside it felt quite cosy and familiar after all. After that, I went back to watching films mostly alone, trying to pick classics and cults at first, but slowly just ending up watching whatever was available on Netflix. I then decided to explore what independent cinema had to offer, until I found myself watching very obscure experimental films on Youtube, and eventually went back to classics.
To my big surprise, from the very beginning, people seemed to be genuinely interested in what I was doing. This provided me with a perfect ice-breaker and conversation starter, one that actually led to interesting chats and helped me feeling more comfortable around people. After three or four of months, I actually felt like I had a lot to say about films and consequentially didn’t feel too nervous about talking to someone new.
Films brought me closer to others in a number of ways. From establishing the ‘Film and Pizza Tuesday Night’ in my flat to joining various cinema-related clubs and societies at university, every little step helped, but the main way this experience changed me is a less obvious one. I started spending some quality time with myself. Going to the cinema or having a meal alone seems to be a stigma most people can’t get over. But sometimes treating yourself with a ticket to your favourite director’s new film and a bucket of popcorn you won’t have to worry about sharing with anyone can actually turn a bad week into a good one. By spending more time alone I got to know myself and learn how to listen to my body’s needs, whether it be a break or a hug.
Despite me noting all the titles of the films watched in 2015, some have inevitably faded in my memory, while I’m sure others will stay with me for years ahead. Alongside some indisputable masterpieces such as 12 Angry Men and Casablanca, and some underestimated pearls such as Amores Perros and A Separation, I believe two films in particular are worth of mention. It’s Such a Beautiful Day was the film that really made my year memorable and my challenge special. Don Hertzfeldt’s odd animation explores the life and fragile psyche of Bill, a not very expressive yet incredibly humane stick-figure. The sounds and visual effects used by Hertzfeldt evoked intense feelings I still look back to when going through a really bad time. Bill’s direct and sincere story had a surprisingly delicate aftertaste and life after It’s Such a Beautiful Day has been somehow lighter.
I’m Starting from Three was one of the few films I watched with my mother. Written and directed by Massimo Troisi, the film follows Gaetano’s adventures as he decides to leave his small town. Besides Gaetano’s fears and worries being highly relatable to mine, I’m Starting from Three showed me sides of my country of origin I have never experienced. It left me with a faint yet comforting sense of belonging and being able to share that moment with my mother was priceless.
Delicate life portraits such as these made me aware of the importance of films as a powerful means of communication. Through the use of various techniques and genres, complex messages and sensations, films can really get across the screen and reach the viewer, leaving marks that words alone could never elicit. As such, it’s hard to put into words what watching these 365 films have done for me or how they have improved my mood and my daily life. But the voice of that nurse from high school has been replaced by Hetzfeldt’s resigned, yet immensely reassuring words: “Isn’t everything amazing?”. Films gave me the strength to listen to myself and speak to others. I feel an indissoluble link between me and the rest of the world now and I know it’s partly because of every single one of those 365 titles.
by Ludovica Credendino
This weekend, we have two full days of screenings, selected from this year's International Film Competition at the CCA in Glasgow. Join us to see how this inspiring programme can broaden your understanding and help improve your mental health. Book your tickets here.
A poignant selection of short documentaries and dramas that portray the resilience of women at defining stages of their lives.
Sat 15 Oct, 1pm–3pm
DAN AND MARGOT + DIRECTOR Q&A
Margot believes she is being stalked and tormented by someone named Dan, but discovers she has schizophrenia. Now, she struggles to build a life as a young independent woman, while trying to reclaim the years she lost to the disorder. A brave and honest look at mental health, stigma and moving forward.
Sat 15 Oct, 4pm–6pm
A FAMILY AFFAIR + DIRECTOR Q&A
When Tom Fassaert’s 95-year-old grandmother invites him to visit her in South Africa, all he knows about her are his father’s stories about the 1950s femme fatale who put her two sons in a children’s home. An unexpected confession makes things more complicated than he could have ever imagined.
Sat 15 Oct, 7pm–9.30pm
An inspiring selection of short films addressing mental health in which young people played key creative roles.
Sun 16 Oct, 1pm–2pm
I WISH I WAS THAT BIRD + DIRECTOR Q&A
A candid and intimate portrait of outsider artist James Condos. Screening with Lima, a gorgeous animated film about a son’s struggle to keep the memory of his father alive, and TRANSition, a brave and honest documentary about a young transgender man.
Sun 16 Oct, 2.30pm–4.30pm
MIND/GAME: THE UNQUIET JOURNEY OF CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW
MIND/GAME tells the compelling story of basketball phenomenon Chamique Holdsclaw, the “female Michael Jordan”, from her rise to WNBA stardom to her struggle with mental illness and the strength she called on to speak out about it. Preceded by Hula, Robin Haig’s hip-shaking drama about liberation.
Sun 16 Oct, 5pm–7pm
Suffocated by his overprotective parents and tired of being a burden on their lives, a troubled young man decides to leave the security of his family to find himself and his place in life. An intimate coming-of-age story about independence, acceptance and the importance of letting go.
Sun 16 Oct, 8pm–10pm