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The rendezvous with madness Film Festival is holding its opening-night gala at TIFF Bell Lightbox this year - which is appropriate, since the film, Carl Bessai's Repeaters, made its local debut at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year.
But don't worry about the festival going too far upscale; RWM is otherwise staying true to its roots, screening the majority of its programming at the Workman Arts centre on Dufferin north of Dundas, with the occasional special program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
The festival's mission remains the same, too, encouraging a deeper cultural understanding of mental illness by bringing shorts, documentaries and features about the subject to Toronto audiences. And some of the titles in this year's program do exactly that.
Philippe Godeau's semi-autobiographical One For The Road (Saturday, 2:30 pm) plays like a prickly French reworking of the Sandra Bullock rehab comedy 28 Days, with François Cluzet as an alcoholic journalist who checks into a serene clinic in the Alps to find himself surrounded by an extremely unlikely support group. Look for Anne Consigny, Mathieu Amalric's hostile sister in A Christmas Tale, in a key role.
I've been a fan of David Lee Miller's My Suicide (November 12, 9 pm) since it made its Canadian premiere at Sprockets earlier this year - and given that its title and subject matter mean it has little to no chance of finding a proper theatrical release, you should definitely try to catch it now. It's a vividly realized high school drama about a withdrawn student (Gabriel Sunday) who announces he'll be killing himself on camera for a class project.
Relative unknown Sunday, who also co-wrote and co-edited the picture, makes a fine, sympathetic lead, and he's got a terrific co-star in Brooke Nevin as a classmate darkly fascinated by his intentions. The volatile subject matter is handled tastefully and with considerable intelligence, presented through a frenetic, multimedia aesthetic that only appears chaotic. Once you understand the editorial rhythms, it's easy enough to follow.
Michel Negroponte's I'm Dangerous With Love (November 12, 11 am) is a documentary about an unlikely evangelist. Ex-junkie Dimitri Mugianis helps other addicts kick their heroin habit through the administration of the hallucinogen ibogaine, which disrupts the cycle of addiction by eliminating withdrawal symptoms and subsequent cravings. But there's a catch: the rapid detox may also kill you, which is why ibogaine is illegal in America.
Negroponte follows Mugianis as he treats a series of patients, and accompanies his subject to Africa to research the drug's origins and subject himself to a sort of shamanic purifying ritual. The footage isn't for the squeamish (actually, that's an understatement), but it's compelling stuff, even when Negroponte starts buying into the New Agier aspects of psychedelic substances.
Finally, there's the closing-night gala, William D. MacGillivray's The Man Of A Thousand Songs (November 13, 8 pm). It's a powerfully intimate portrait of the multi-faceted Newfoundland singer/songwriter Ron Hynes, who flirted with success at the age of 16 and then spiralled into decades of substance abuse and psychological instability.
MacGillivray approaches his subject with sensitivity and respect, but doesn't hesitate to push him for deeper truths. Neither does he flinch from the more difficult aspects of Hynes's story, which keeps the doc from falling into the standard rock-and-ruin formulations. The result is a movie that's awfully hard to shake off when the house lights come up.
Hynes is set to perform after the screening.