Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival

Rendezvous with Madness (RWM) is the world’s first and longest running film festival showcasing films that address issues of mental health and/or addiction. The festival provides a distinct venue for filmmakers to screen their work and has grown into a filmmaker favourite over the past eighteen years.

• To explore the facts and mythologies of mental illness and/or addiction, as presented by Canadian and international filmmakers.

• To facilitate discussions amongst filmmakers and audiences with respect to these cinematic representations.

• To provide filmmakers an opportunity to screen their films that may otherwise not be seen.

• To increase awareness, and advocacy for mental health and addiction issues and concerns.

RWM brings independent Canadian and International film and video to the public. RWM features strong programs that address the facts and mythologies of mental illness and addiction.

Each of the various programs focuses on different themes and includes panel discussions involving the filmmakers, artists and people with professional and personal experience with mental illness and addiction.

WAM Film Festival Puts New Lens on Disability

Starting Thursday, Vancouver will play host to the first film festival in the province to feature films made people who have a disability.

Presented by Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture, the Wide Angle Media (WAM) Festival will screen international and local films from two to 50 minutes in length.

The films, which include dramas, documentaries and animation, have varied themes and do not necessarily deal with issues of disability. Yet some of them, like all good art, manage to do both. Take for instance, the film debut by inspirational humourist David Roche.

David is one of five Canadian filmmakers awarded a sponsorship package from WAM to produce a commissioned short for the festival.

Called Beauty School, the short comedy film is set in a beauty salon where an esthetician, played by David, encounters two women, one of whom thinks she needs a face transplant. Beauty School has a “reasonably happy ending,” says David, who hopes viewers will come away laughing and encouraged from his first-ever screenplay and fictional acting performance.

The film’s underlying message is that beauty comes from within — something David says he’s learned in the 20 years he’s been on stage talking about his facial disfigurement using humour from the heart. He’s come to realize that everyone feels disfigured in some way and if it’s not dealt with, emotional and spiritual maturity cannot be realized. This place of fear and doubt also leaves one vulnerable to bullies and predators.

The film, for which he was encouraged and mentored by fellow WAM Festival filmmaker Jan Derbyshire and others, is another step in David’s intensely personal artistic journey.
“I feel this is an opportunity to put out what I’ve learned,”says David, adding it’s “way past the time” for people who have a disability to do this.

“We have something to bring, we have something to teach.”

Beauty School, along with the other four commissioned shorts, will be shown in two screenings at the March 22-25 festival, along with nightly showings of films.

To learn more about WAM, click here.

Casting call for Wannabe: The Movie

From Randy A. Gordon, writer of Wannabe, an upcoming film about Body Integrity Identity Disorder:

We’re looking for actors and actresses who are comfortable about being part of a movie about the paraplegic manifestation of Body Integrity Identity Disorder. Performers must be Canadian and willingness to travel for the shoot is a big plus. Roles range from minor roles to background roles. In particular, we’re looking for a blind man, a female who uses crutches, a leg amputee, and a teen who has a disability requiring crutches, i.e. CP. Those who don’t fit these categories are still encouraged to apply. The website is at All the information about the movie is on there. Contact info will lead to Peter, who is the the one spearheading the project. I can be available to answer questions about the story itself, since I’m the writer. We hope to avoid casting non-disabled people for these roles if possible.


Passchendaele was the name of a town and of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.
Public sentiment in a town in Canada was very much against men of military age who were not in the service, and a young man with the humble job of typesetter and the condition of asthma (and who was thus medically excused from the draft) was feeling the shame. He has the idea that he has a chance for excitement and glory in war. He wants to impress the girl he is engaged to, and more importantly, her father, a powerful and wealthy newspaper editor/publisher.
It is made clear later on in the movie that the powers-that-be recognized that those with asthma were less likely to survive the poison gas attacks on the part of the Germans for which this war was noted, and thus gave them medical exclusions from military service in WWI.
This movie did a good job of portraying the kind of war fever that went along with a country’s participation in this conflict; there was a public event at which men of draft age who were not in the military were publicly shamed, a woman of German ancestry had her house splattered with red paint and word “Hun”, in spite of the fact that she was a nurse in the war, and if you articulated the fact that there were certain drawbacks to war itself, every opportunity was taken to question your courage, your patriotism, and your sanity.
One person who was the target of this sort of thing was Sgt. Michael Dunn, a soldier sent back to Canada after having participated in a particularly bloody battle, with a diagnosis of “neurasthenia” or “shell shock”, now known as PTSD. He is seen recounting and regretting particularly graphic acts of violence. He appears to have a conscience, and this is a problem for those above him. The brilliant minds higher up on the chain of command kept him in the service and made him a recruiter. As such, he refused to recruit the young man whose asthma, according to regulations, precluded his participation. His immediate superior, who later lets the young man with asthma join in spite of the fact that it is unlikely that the asthma magically went away because the fiance’s father wrote a medical clearance, throws Dunn’s diagnosis in his face when he objects to the fact that the superior officer just broke his own rules for recruitment! Dunn later gets his own back. At a time when he has the element of surprise, Dunn threatens the superior officer and gets him to sign papers and send him back to the front, as he intends to serve as protector for the asthmatic boy, who is a relation to the nurse who is Dunn’s love interest. Before both of them leave to rejoin the war, Dunn helps the nurse kick her morphine habit, acquired during her last tour of duty. Dunn also socializes with a man with an amputated arm. The man lost the arm in an accident in a sawmill, “but the ladies don’t know that”, he says. Indeed, when the battle of Passchendaele itself is portrayed, it is shown that in this particular war, with its heavy use of artillery similar to that used in today’s wars, but without today’s medical technology, losing a limb in the war was not an uncommon fate. It helps that at one point in the movie there is a medical lecture concerning what artillery shells do to the human body. (It was, in fact, during World War I that the term “basket case” originated. It did not initially refer to the mental or psychological paralysis it implies today, but to someone who had managed to have every extremity shot away or damaged beyond repair, who had to be literally carried around in a basket.)
In spite of Dunn’s efforts to protect him, the boy with ashma dies, though not of asthma-related complications ensuing during a gas attack. In fact, the use of poison gas is suprisingly absent from the battlefield portrayal in the movie (perhaps because a heavy rain is falling for much of the time the armies are in the field).
He is strong enough to hand Dunn a neck chain and medal his sister gave him, which later hangs on the marker for Dunn’s grave.