World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. As Maya Sarfowah says in her short film Why I Disappeared, “To my loves battling mental illnesses, going through terrible phases in your life, having to deal with people discrediting the reality of your critical condition, you’re one of the strongest people I know, trust me.”

Goodnight Mr. Vincent Van Gogh Livestream Q & A

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a chance, maybe even already, to catch an amazing film.

Remember when I said I had an exciting bombshell announcement to make? I can let the cat out of the bag now: author and filmmaker Lindsey Doolittle has agreed to partner with the Diversability Committee of the Chicago Public Library for the festival’s very first livestream Q & A –where you, the audience, can ask your own questions after viewing her film!

Our first year we had some audience Q and A’s that were very special, but obviously we haven’t really been able to do that since moving the festival online due to COVID restrictions. However, this will be our very first time experimenting with a virtual version of that and I think there is a lot of exciting potential there.

Lindsey seemed like a natural fit for this program as her short animated film Goodnight Mr. Vincent Van Gogh is based on the children’s book she wrote with the same name. How do we talk to children about suicide? Some people would argue, we don’t. Lindsey argues that if we can talk to children about traumatic deaths caused by illnesses like cancer, we can talk to them at an early age about death by suicide. The thing that stops us is the stigma, including the blame and the shame, surrounding the death.

Goodnight Mr. Vincent Van Gogh gently demonstrates, however, that we can explain to children that just as some people become sick with physical illness, some people can become sick with sadness and depression. She uses the tragic life of Vincent Van Gogh to illustrate the pain behind the beauty that we often overlook. This screening is very special to me personally. Believe it or not, I have a day job other than Mental Filmness, and that is as a librarian for the Chicago Public Library. Several years ago I was asked by some friends there if I would exhibit for the Diversability Committee as an artist living with bipolar disorder. Believe it or not, I think this was actually the first time I recognized that A. My depression was a disability and B. I had accomplished a lot in the face of that disability. In fact, I later learned that depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. The committee addresses these “invisible” disabilities just as it does physical disabilities.

In order to join the very special livestream Q & A you will need to register on the library website here to receive the Zoom link:…/615f0d88d0e33f360…. You do not need to have a Chicago Public Library card or live in Chicago to register, that is the beauty of Zoom. The screening and Q & A will be Wednesday, October 27th, at 6:30 p.m. I would like to thank the Diversability Committee for once again reaching out to me to highlight mental health accomplishments, and to thank art educator, author, artist, filmmaker, and suicide loss survivor Lindsey Doolittle for her time and for starting this important conversation.

Mad Love

What do you get when 2 artists meet in an asylum and are tested by time, trust, faith and the power of creativity?


This documentary about Issa Ibrahim and Susan Spangenberg tells a true story of art and romance in and out of the asylum.

Issa Ibrahim finds meaning and purpose as an artist, musician, writer, activist and 20 year artist-in-residence at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s Living Museum. Author of the memoir The Hospital Always Wins, published by Chicago Review Press in 2016, Issa is also an award winning filmmaker for his autobiographical musical documentary Patient’s Rites, and has been featured on German Public Television, an HBO documentary, an Edward R. Murrow and Third Coast award winning NPR audio story as well as participating in numerous art and mental health exhibitions the world over.

Susan Spangenberg is a self-taught artist who started creating at the age of three. She cut her “outsider artist” teeth at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s renowned ‘Living Museum’ art rehabilitation program. Susan was in the vanguard of the “Girl, Interrupted” female asylum artist wave that has in the past 20 years become the new normal, and has maintained the raw essence of that genre imbued with a 21st-century sensibility. Susan is also a writer, filmmaker and actor who performs under the stage name Shyla Idris. Watch the exclusive Mental Filmness interview with Isaa & Susan here:

Mad Love will screen in the features section of the virtual festival.

Dragon Quest

In the short film Dragon Quest, Benjamin goes through a few different counsellors in order to find a solution for his bout of anxiety and depressive episodes. He fails to find the right one. With each failed attempt, he puts on more metaphorical armour on himself as a defense mechanism, eventually hindering his everyday life. But in the end he does find his counsellor, and learns that with the right help, he can obtain the right tools he needs to vanquish his draconic issues.

ThatParanoidStudio is a company formed by a group of friends and hobbyists coming together from different backgrounds with a love for creating comedic content and has evolved with an aim to specialise in producing high concept genres and untold perspectives in story – film & commercial.

The studio works to engage audiences with new, creative and entertaining ideas while injecting heart and soul into Singapore’s film community.

Dragon Quest screens in Shorts Block No. 3 of the virtual festival.

You can watch the exclusive Mental Filmness interview with director Noppatad Luangvaranan and producer Kellie Kuah here:

Mental Filmness Eve

Do you know what day it is? It’s Mental Filmness Eve!

Sunday, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day, a day designated to draw awareness to mental health struggles. And tomorrow evening, at 7 p.m., for free, viewers around the world will be able to unlock films highlighting the theme of mental health from a diversity of viewpoints and cultures, highlighting a variety of different mental illnesses, told in a variety of ways: documentary, animation, comedy, even horror and sci-fi.

So, if you haven’t done so, order a FREE pass here to unlock the films:

Films will be available to unlock and view at your leisure until November 1st. Passes will also be freely available during that time so if you’re enjoying what you see feel free to spread the word!

Make sure you don’t overlook the creator interview section this year, which is the most expansive yet:

Your vote matters! All films should be available for virtual balloting (including each individual short) so cast votes for your favorites and we’ll give out some honorary awards at the end.

Which film are you looking forward to the most? Spoiler alert: They’re all incredible, in their own way.

THANK YOU for what has *already* become the biggest (I would never say best) season so far in terms of engagement and passes ordered. All a ragtag passion project film festival can hope is to grow a little every year, and it is so very heartening to see that happening.

Keep an eye on this reactivated webpage, our new Twitter,, and for more updates. It looks like we have a couple more interviews coming down the pipeline, including a big bombshell I am excited to announce this weekend! A happy festival to all!

Orchestrating Change

ORCHESTRATING CHANGE is the feature documentary film that tells the inspiring story of Me2/Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. Co-founded by Ronald Braunstein, once a world-renowned conductor whose career was shattered when his own diagnosis of bipolar disorder was made public, the mission of the orchestra is to erase stigma one exhilarating concert at a time. As they rehearse, perform and then, prepare for a major concert, these extraordinary musicians have no idea how much the orchestra will change their lives in poignant and powerful ways. While they face struggles including hospitalizations, even incarceration, they always return to the orchestra.

Co-directors Margie Friedman and Barbara Multer-Wellin are both EMMY award winning producer/directors with years of non-fiction television experience. They have produced shows for CBS, NBC, ABC, HBO, Showtime, Lifetime, HGTV, Disney Channel and others. Their previous films have aired on PBS including, the prestigious series, “Independent Lens.”

Orchestrating Change can be found in the Features section of the virtual festival.

Watch Margie & Barbara’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview here:

The Healer & The Psychiatrist

In the South Pacific Island group of Vava’u, the traditional healer Emeline Lolohea treats people affected by spirits. One day away by ferry, the only Tongan Psychiatrist Dr Mapa Puloka has established a public psychiatry well known across the region. Though they have never met in person, this film creates a dialogue between them on the nature of mental illness and spiritual affliction. Their discussion offers challenges and opportunities to help address the growing global mental health crisis.

Mike Poltorak is an award winning independent documentary filmmaker and medical/visual anthropologist whose work explores the theme of social health through text, ethnographic film and interactive transmedia. His projects emerge out of long term involvement, community engagement and feedback and include documentaries on Tongan comedy (Fun(d)raising: The Secret of Tongan Comedy, 2010), volunteerism in a Swedish alternative community (One Week West of Molkom, 2013) and the dance form of contact improvisation (Five Ways In, 2014). His latest documentary on mental health and spirituality in Tonga (The Healer and the Psychiatrist, 2019) won the SVA Best Feature Film Award 2020 and has screened in many global documentary, indigenous and ethnographic film festivals. As a teacher of visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking he has won national, faculty and student led prizes. He has also taught social and medical anthropology at the Universities of Sussex, Kent and University College London. His publications in key regional and medical anthropology journals on mental health, traditional healing, vaccination, public psychiatry and healing efficacy are cited widely. He gained his MSc in Medical Anthropology and PhD in Social Anthropology at UCL.

Check out Mike Poltorak’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview here:

The Healer & The Psychiatrist will be screening in the Features section of the Virtual Festival.

The Depression of Detective Downs 2: On Depression’s Edge

The Depression of Detective Downs 2: On Depression’s Edge

Detective Rolando Downs is back and this time he has to locate a missing man while trying to keep the emotional and physical symptoms of his depression under control.

In the summer of 2000, a college student by the name of Anthony Thurman, created a documentary film based on a class trip to a computer show that he and several of his classmates attended. He edited it on a VCR and created his own production company logo to air before and after the film as sort of a joke. This is when the name ALT Key Productions was born. The name comes from a combination of Anthony’s initials (A.L.T.) and a reference to an actual ALT Key on a keyboard since his major in college was Computer Information Systems.

The film was such a surprise hit with the people at his college, that he realized he should start taking filmmaking seriously. About a year later, Anthony decided that it might be best to further his college education by fulfilling his dream of going to an art school. After being accepted, it wasn’t soon after that Anthony understood that the cost of classes would be too high for him to enroll. One of the advisors at the art school even insisted that he would amount to very little if he let his lack of money stop him from attending.

That same week, Anthony used his frustration towards his unfortunate financial situation, and at what the advisor said, to move him into another positive direction. He decided to go back to work on a short animated project that he had earlier abandoned due to the cancellation of a contest he wanted to enter. He rewrote many aspects of the story and decided to make it 22 minutes and 30 seconds longer than it was originally intended to be. The short was about two explorers in the future who go in search of a lost 20th Century artifact. The name of the short film was “Tomb Hackers.” It was the first official film, since his playful stint at documentary filmmaking, to use the name ALT Key Productions.

From then on, Anthony has continued to use his natural artistic abilities and his skills on a computer to create short films that not only entertain, but that often invoke serious thought and conversation.

Check out Anthony Thurman’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview here:

Detective Downs 2: On Depression’s Edge screens as part of Shorts Block No. 4.

Today Or Not Today

On the day of a long-awaited audition, an actor battles with her anxiety in the short Today Or Not Today.

Pete Eliot is an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer who embraces world cinema and social realism, always aiming to discover extraordinary stories in everyday life. Other recent achievements include reaching the Nicholl Fellowships Semifinals and being nominated for a Mind Media Award. His upcoming projects include more dramas about mental health issues to help build awareness and understanding.

Check out Pete’s mental health documentary series Instrumental Health at:

Also check out Pete Eliot’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview here:

Today Or Not Today screens in Shorts Block No. 4 in the virtual festival.

Seeking Oblivion

Seeking Oblivion follows the story of a young man struggling with depression and a post suicide attempt. Is he broken, or are those around him who are supposed to be helping him actually in need of him more?

Everyone is a lost soul…Sometimes…

Brent Baird is a Canadian actor, writer, and director born and raised in London Ontario Canada. He has appeared in several indie films and television series since graduating from the Fanshawe College Theatre Arts program in 2008. Seeking Oblivion is Brent’s directorial debut. This film has been a passion project for many years and we hope you will enjoy it.

Check out Brent Baird’s exclusive Mental Filmness interview at

Seeking Oblivion is streaming under virtual festival features.