Unique Upcoming Film Festival Organized by Mad in America

Mad in America’s International Film Festival will encourage us to think anew about the nature of what is commonly called “mental illness” and its treatments. The festival will run from October 9-12, 2014, in Arlington, Massachusetts (Boston vicinity).

I have had a chance to preview some of the festival films, including Nick and Zack Young’s William Kurelek’s The Maze, about one of Canada’s most celebrated artists. The Young brothers finished this film which their father, Robert M. Young, started over 40 years ago. Award-winning filmmaker Robert M. Young (Nothing But a Man, Dominick and Eugene) began this documentary because he believed that Kurelek’s revelations in both his art and in his person were of great importance—a belief that will be difficult to reject after seeing this film.

Kurelek (1927-1977) as a young man became disconnected from himself and others, displayed frightening behaviors, and was hospitalized in London, diagnosed as schizophrenic. Kurelek came to believe that he was never “mentally ill” but had experienced a spiritual crisis. Kurelek was an extremely gentle and honest man, and the Young brothers’ film is extremely gentle and honest in revealing not only him but his familial relationships.

The Young brothers’ gentle honesty gives William Kurelek’s The Maze a non-polemical stance—a rare quality in films about this kind of subject matter, where we are routinely manipulated to buy this or that dogma. The film, instead of manipulating us, opens our hearts to an aspect of our humanity that is often difficult for many of us to be receptive to.

From what I’ve seen, opening our hearts to our humanity is what many of the other films at the Mad in America’s International Film Festival will also accomplish.

The mission of the festival, according to organizers, is “to foster the pursuit of social justice and human rights by bringing together an international collective of voices, perspectives, and artistic presentations that challenge the current mental health system and explore mainstream and alternative understandings of ‘mental illness.’ ” To this end, in addition to films, there will also be speakers, panels, visual art, theater, and performance art. The films will be shown at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts from October 9th-12th, 2014.