Why I Disappeared

In Why I Disappeared, a young girl explains the cause of her disappearance with a visual depiction of her battle with depression.

Maya Sarfowah is a novelist, first-time filmmaker, creative director, mental health advocate, and a student of the University of London, studying Psychology.

Maya says: “This film is based on my experience with depression in the year 2018. I am extremely glad to be able to turn something that I thought was going to kill me, into something that I hope is going to save somebody out there.

Let us continue to care for our loved ones, friends, family, strangers, and anyone we encounter.

Depression is real.”

Why I Disappeared can be found in Shorts Block No. 1 of the virtual festival.

An Ocean Between The Waves

An Ocean Between The Waves, written & directed by David Redhead, is a dreamy debut film and evocative snapshot of a young woman’s journey to better manage her anxiety.

Sarah, a recently qualified therapist, makes an impression on a naive Crystal.

It isn’t long before their relationship goes beyond professional protocol and Crystal begins to question everything from her sanity and even her sexuality.

David Redhead was born in 1992 in Scunthorpe, a small industrial town in northeast England. Growing up in Scunthorpe has fuelled a desire for making raw, realistic content, reminiscent of the ‘kitchen sink’ dramas of the 50s and 60s that focused on ‘real’ peoples’ issues. In 2011, he enrolled at the University of Leicester and studied English and Film Studies for the next three years. After working many jobs after graduating, he moved to London in 2016 to pursue a career in film. In London, he gained a wide range of experience running on sets and in post houses, whilst also helping friends out in their own productions. Redhead currently works in post production preparing content for video on demand platforms. His real passion lies in writing his own films and being on set, seeing his own ideas come to fruition. ‘An Ocean Between the Waves’ is Redhead’s first feature film.

Says Redhead: “In hindsight, since I can remember, I’ve always suffered from some form of anxiety; overthinking and worrying unnecessarily to name a few. It was only until mid 2016 when I realised that it was a problem and was something that I shouldn’t be living with.

I was struggling to find a story to write about for a short film. As it turned out, this bad experience fuelled an idea. I found exploring anxiety through the medium of film was useful therapy. It allowed me to understand how absurd it all is, but at the same time, how real and detrimental it is.

It took me around 6 months of on and off writing to complete the first draft of the script. In fact, none of the film was written in order. I wrote each scene and then stitched them together. I didn’t want a fairytale story where someone starts off hopeless, and by the end of the story they couldn’t have a care in the world. Mental illness is not like that. It doesn’t necessarily follow that trend, it fluctuates frantically, and I wanted to capture that in the structure of the film.

‘An Ocean Between the Waves’ is by no means a biographical story, but it is a personal story. It takes elements of what I’ve experienced and can relate to, albeit with some creative licensing. People often ask me why I’ve written my experiences through a female. For me, the gender is irrelevant in some ways. In another way, I found it easier to write as a female, it seemed more natural and I guess by projecting my emotions onto another gender, I could remove myself from the story slightly. Crystal became her own character and not simply a caricature of myself.”

An Ocean Between The Waves is currently streaming in the features section of the virtual festival.

On The Couch With My Depression

Full of excited anticipation, a poet plans to go to a book party. Then along comes depression. On The Couch With Depression is a film about yearning simply to be able to clean your teeth and leave the house.

Based on the poem “I was going to go to Dorothea Lasky’s book party in Brooklyn, but instead I stayed on the couch with my depression, not crying” by Paula Harris.

With a background in filmmaking, art, design, and creativity, Angharad Gladding wrote and directed her first short film in 2011. Her art combines her passions of filmmaking and mental health awareness and in 2019, she headed the team behind the film “It Is Me.” As the director, producer, and DOP on this project it was officially selected into Canberra Mental Health Film Festival 2019, Hot Springs International Women’s Film Festival 2020, Conquering Disabilities with Film International Film Festival 2020, and the Courage Film Festival 2020. In the foreseeable future, she wishes to continue to combine these two passions to create more creative content.

Says Gladding: “I’ve always used different mediums of art to express my views on mental health. I have done so before and I want to continue to use film-making as a way to gain more awareness for those who struggle with mental health. I’ve always felt a little out of place myself with the stigma that surrounds anxiety and depression in society. I started out doing this because I want to normalise that stigma that currently surrounds it and allow people to see it as it really is without fear or judgement. This poem in particular resonated with me. It was so real and raw in its portrayal of struggling with depression. I felt I’d found another kindred spirit who, like me, wanted to paint mental health struggles as they really are in their natural form. I wanted to transform that realness and rawness into a visual representation to be used to reach a wide range of individuals to help normalise the stigma.”

The Awakening of Lilith

In the moody The Awakening of Lilith, a woman finds herself in the midst of a dark mystery after the unexplained loss of a loved one. Her mind begins to unravel as her sense of reality begins to slip away.

Director Steven Adam Renkovish resides in South Carolina. His love affair with the arts began as a young man and continues to this very day.

Adam is a film critic, as well as a screenwriter and filmmaker. He has written for The Easley Progress and Examiner.com, as well as his own site, HalloweenRetro101.

Adam’s award-winning films have been accepted to many film festivals, including the Tryon International Film Festival in Tryon, NC.

On the film, Renkovish says: “Grief is universal. At some point, we will all face it. It’s how each individual processes it that interests me, because over the course of my life, each period of grief that I have experienced has been vastly different, with varying degrees of weight.

The Awakening of Lilith explores this idea of the weight of grief – how some of us long to forget it the minute we feel it, the very second it shows its face, and how others almost see it as a comfort. Because grief tethers us to our loved ones for eternity, every time that we grieve for them, they are there, in some way or another.

In this film, the character of Lilith suffers from the mysterious loss of a loved one. The pain is so great that she has chosen to live inside of it. I wanted to explore what that would look like, and how and why one comes to that place. That eternal night of the soul – not quite day and not quite night. Candlelight is abundant in the film. Burning and flickering in what is clearly midday or at the dead of night – Lilith does not differentiate between the two, such is the complexity of her grief.

I hope that the experience of watching The Awakening of Lilith will initiate a conversation that needs to be had. I hope that, through the character of Lilith, people may see a bit of themselves. That is my hope.”

The Awakening of Lilith is playing under the features section of the virtual festival.

Bridging The Gap

At age 18 Meg started hearing a voice. She tried ignoring it, didn’t tell a soul, yet the voice grew. More abusive, more delusional and often completely out of her control. Eventually, her paranoia wore her down. She experienced “an explosion of mental health,” followed by years of medical intervention and institutions.

Bridging the Gap offers a snapshot of Meg’s world as she grapples with the boundaries between her internal delusions and her everyday life. This film will challenge your perspective on hearing voices, open your eyes on medicalisation, and beg the question ‘what even is reality?’

Nina Ross is a Bristol-based documentary filmmaker and visual anthropologist. Curious by nature, her films contemplate how people make sense of everyday life and find meaning in often challenging circumstances. Prior to making films, she spent 6 years in charity work (working with refugees, asylum seekers, and homeless people). Inspired by the disability arts slogan ‘nothing about us without us’ she works collaboratively, opening a space for contributors to be involved in the film-making process. Her aim is to communicate deeper insight into contemporary issues; exploring stereotypes, challenging perceptions and crafting bold narratives that really resonate with the audience.

The film was collaboratively produced between Meg herself and director, Nina Ross, blending animation crafted from Meg’s own illustrations and diaries with photographs and live footage. It was made during lockdown by sending cameras into hospital where Meg could record herself, crafting intimate insight into her environment. “It’s about time I show people who can’t share my experiences what I actually have to deal with. What better way than to make this film?” ~~Meg Barrett

Bridging The Gap plays in Shorts Block No. 3 in the virtual festival.

The Cuckoo’s Nest (Das Kuckucksnest)

I think this is the last of the interviews. I’m sad that they’re over but glad that they happened; so many fun conversations. My chat with Thomas Perathoner from Italy wasn’t my finest hour—I totally slaughtered and stuttered his name in the beginning & rambled a lot–but I’m not cutting anything, both because I don’t really know how to edit video and also because, again, the focus shouldn’t really be on me at all, but rather on the insightful things he had to say about the film. Also it was kind of funny, and I think I referenced it again later.

I feel like Thomas’s brief description of his film The Cuckoo’s Nest in Filmfreeway doesn’t really do it justice, so I’ll just say it really stood out from a lot of the other submissions. It’s funny, which is always welcome; it’s darkly satirical; it has a clever twist without having the entire film hinge on the twist; and it raises some troubling questions about modern psychiatry, the pharmaceutical industry, and treatment for mental illness that aren’t easy to answer. Plus, it’s really funny. You should give it a whirl.

Three doctors running the psychiatric ward in a hospital are nervous because of an announced ministerial inspection. They struggle even more, as who they face is more interested in patients ́ health, than in the economics. So even social, economic, political, and religious aspects matter.

Born in 1973 in Bolzano, a multicultural town in the Alps with mediterranean climate. With a degree in commerce, studies in philosophy, career in real estate and energy business, he joined the film industry in late 2014, as a producer. A period of work on international projects followed and he started writing and directing in 2018, with his first short film, awarded in several international festivals.

Since 2019 as CEO of 44 PRODUCTION, he writes, directs, and produces international music videos, shorts, and features. Credits include Urban Sax in Bozen (2014 – executive producer); Urban Sax in Bolzano – un anno dopo (2015 – producer); Short Cuts from a Town (2018 – writer, director, producer); Das Kuckucksnest (2020 – writer, director, producer); and Amor Fati (2020 – producer).

Watch an exclusive Mental Filmness interview with Thomas *Pair-a-thoner” here: https://mentalfilmness2021.eventive.org/interviews2021

Be sure to catch The Cuckoo’s Nest (Das Kuckucksnest), which kicks off Shorts Block No. 2.

Her Resolve

In the short animated film Her Resolve, after enduring the loss of her father, a daughter navigates past remorse to find closure by using the creativity he had fostered, and her connection with her younger sister.

Director Marissa Dingman is a filmmaker based in Portland, OR with roots in TN, KY, and GA. Her background comes from her experience as an animator and multimedia journalist where storytelling is central to design. “Her Resolve” is her second film in her short series “Speaking About Suicide” meant to normalize the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention.

You can check out “Her Resolve” screening in Shorts Block No. 1 in the virtual festival.

Mental As Everything

I just have to add as an interesting note (at least to me): when I interviewed Damon Smith, it was the largest gap in time zones I’ve navigated yet. We figured out the most sensible time for both of us was 6 a.m. Central and 10 p.m. in Australia. Forgive me if I was still groggy, I’m not a morning person. In fact I was really confused when my alarm went off and almost slept through it. It was like a bizarre sci-fi experience to someone like me who doesn’t understand or think about those things. ~~Ed.

Damon Smith has estimated that he has spent around 50 thousand hours of his life, so far, participating in absurd ritualistic behaviours associated with his obsessive Compulsive Disorder. With a diagnosis of both, OCD and Bipolar Disorder, and with the help of his anxious friend, Adam, these two touring, Australian musicians, will share, with original music, preposterous humour and outlandish animations, the intricate and debilitating nature of what it is like to live and talk about mental illness in a world where it’s ok to talk about a broken arm but not ok to talk about a broken mind.

Damon is an award-winning composer, lyricist, music producer, writer, instrumentalist, filmmaker and performer from Perth, now living in Melbourne.

As a musician, he has performed at countless theatres across Australia, written jingles, songs and composed ballet and has released several original albums. Appearing as a session piano player on numerous recordings he has also had music featured on television, stage and in short films. Working as a producer, he has also recorded several albums for local artists.

Singing with a unique, smokey baritone voice, he is a virtuosic piano player who can seamlessly flow between musical styles currently performing in three of his own hugely contrasting stage shows that have all amassed 4 and a half and 5-star reviews.Writing and creating with the frequency of the tides, Damon’s work is often wry and thought-provoking with loads of comedic absurdity and buffoonery thrown in.

In his show, Mental As Everything, Smith provides a funny, raw and thought-provoking cabaret that explores the multifaceted nature of mental illness through hilarious original songs and onstage buffoonery. Smith shares his deeply personal experience of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and bipolar disorder in a show that fathoms the highs and lows of living with a mental illness.

Damon also produces and films the popular YouTube video performance series, ‘The Night Sky Is A Jewellery Store Window’ and has made over 50 videos (and counting) that feature local and international singer-songwriters. Check out Damon’s time warped Mental Filmness interview here: https://mentalfilmness2021.eventive.org/interviews2021

And check out Mental As Everything under the features section of the virtual festival.

The Dinner Party

In The Dinner Party, a woman is served an absurd dish and attempts to make it discreetly disappear from her plate.

Wendy Placko is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Northfield, Minnesota. Her projects honor multiple art forms coming together to create a more meaningful piece. Her arts background includes theater, visual arts, dance and making short films. Through involvement in community arts, she has established working relationships with other local artists and enjoys bringing diverse perspectives to her work. She has received regional Minnesota grants in 2017 and 2020 as well as a Minnesota State Arts Board grant in 2021 to support her work in film.

The Dinner Party is screening as part of Shorts Block 1.

You can watch Wendy Placko’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview here: https://mentalfilmness2021.eventive.org/interviews2021

My Ascension

On June 7, 2017, Emma Benoit, a successful student and popular varsity cheerleader, takes her father’s gun, aims it at her chest, and fires. While her life is saved, the bullet wound leaves her paralyzed, and as Emma begins the arduous process of recovery, including the goal of one day walking again, she is propelled to use her experience to help others, while also shedding light on a suicide epidemic that is devastating communities around the globe.

Most Recently Greg Dicharry co-directed and co-produced the award-winning feature-length documentary, Suicide The Ripple Effect which was released in theaters in March 2018 and on VOD platforms in May 2019. The film has had over 800 screenings worldwide with over 60,000 attendees.

Greg started chasing his film career in 1993 when he moved to Hollywood after college. He immediately began working on a variety of projects including feature films OutBreak – starring Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding and Morgan Freeman, as well as Mirage – starring Sean Young and Edward James Almos. He also worked on numerous music videos, commercials and live shows for VH1 and MTV.

He later returned home to New Orleans to co-found the video production company Verge Entertainment where he produced and directed numerous film and video projects including the TV pilot “Tribe TV,” which received a regional Emmy Award; “Heroin the Real Deal,” a heroine prevention film featuring surviving members of the band Sublime and “Go Cat Go,” an EPK for music legend Carl Perkins.

Greg’s film career was diverted by mental illness and drug addiction and after finding personal recovery he became committed to helping others do the same. For the last 11 years, he has been serving as the national youth empowerment director for Magellan Health, leading MY LIFE one of the nation’s premier youth programs focused on empowering young people with mental health, substance abuse, and foster care challenges, a program he created.

Greg has been honored to receive numerous awards for work in mental health including Mental Health America’s highest honor, the Clifford Beers Award – 2019, the 2014 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Voice Award for consumer/ peer leadership, the 2013 Howie the Harp Award for Advocacy in the Arts, National Council for Behavioral Health Reintegration Award- 2013, National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Award- 2017 and Federation of Families for Central Florida – Exceptional Leadership Award – 2017.

My Ascension is now playing in the features section of the virtual festival.

You can watch an exclusive Mental Filmness interview with Emma & Greg here: https://mentalfilmness2021.eventive.org/interviews2021