Reel Mind Film Festival takes an empathic look at mental health 

click to enlarge Filmmaker Jenifer Malmqvist's documentary "Daughters' follows sisters Hedvig, Sofia, and Maja after their mother's suicide. - COURTESY OF WG FILM
  • COURTESY OF WG FILM
  • Filmmaker Jenifer Malmqvist's documentary "Daughters' follows sisters Hedvig, Sofia, and Maja after their mother's suicide.
The Reel Mind Film Festival, now in its fifteenth year, is unassuming. It consists of two films — “Get2Eleven,” screening October 18, and “Daughters,” which receives its American premiere October 25. Both pack an emotional gut punch meant to provoke thought and discussion about mental health.

The festival began in 2009 as a way to better inform the public about mental health through movies. Dr. Larry Guttmacher, Reel Mind co-director (along with co-director Sonia Hadchiti) and professor emeritus at the University of Rochester’s Department of Psychiatry, initiated the idea.

“Part of it is clearly a message of hope and basic education,” said Dr. Guttmacher. “Part of it is trying to counter stigma. We still deal with this so much, and so much more than we do around the other forms of illness.”

He shared the concept with Ruth Cowing and the late Herb Katz of JCC CenterStage, and together they founded and led the festival, presenting not only films but live theater performances as well.

This year’s iteration includes “Get2Eleven,” director Dave Quay’s film version of actor and theater director Padraic Lillis’s one-man-show of the same name. In it, Lillis details his struggles with depression and suicidal ideation, while providing insight for loved ones of those susceptible to mental illness.

“That is our instinct: ‘Let me fix that, let me tell you how to fix that,’” Lillis, a Rochester native, explained. “And I think the importance of being seen and heard, and just letting other people know you see them — that is it.”

click to enlarge A still image from the film "Daughters" by Jenifer Malmqvist. - COURTESY OF WG FILM
  • COURTESY OF WG FILM
  • A still image from the film "Daughters" by Jenifer Malmqvist.
The other featured movie is the documentary “Daughters” by Swedish filmmaker Jenifer Malmqvist, which follows three sisters as they cope with the suicide of their mother, both as children in the immediate aftermath and as young adults several years later. Malmqvist wanted the film to communicate their perspectives.

“We don't know how to listen, and I was thinking about that,” she said. "And it's really hard to listen without trying to help, without judging, without commenting.”

Both film screenings take place at the Rochester Academy of Medicine on East Avenue, preceded by panel discussions and Q&A sessions. For more information and tickets, go to reelmindfilmfest.com.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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