Stage Door News

Toronto: Rendezvous with Madness Festival cancels all in-person screenings and exhibit tours

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

From Workman Arts Executive and Artistic Director Kelly Straughan:

"Since announcing the Rendezvous with Madness Festival line-up a little less than a month ago we have seen a steady increase in Covid19 numbers. This past week all levels of government urged extra caution and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Eileen de Villa, recommended that individuals only consider leaving their homes for essential activities. We know we must work together to protect the most vulnerable in our community so, with this in mind, we are cancelling our in-person screenings and the in-person tours of the exhibition. The action we take now will affect the course of the pandemic and we feel it is our responsibility to do our part to slow the spread of the virus. Rest assured virtual options remain as planned: all programs, including the opening night film, Judy Vs Capitalism, our spotlight film Les heures heureuses and our closing night film This is Not A Burial, it’s a Resurrection can be streamed online. The Re:Building Resilience Exhibition has a virtual tour that includes a virtual swag bag with extra features from the 25 projects on offer. We hope that audiences will join us for our many panel discussions, Q&A’s, workshops and masterclasses that happen live on zoom. Thank you so much for continuing to support the Rendezvous with Madness Festival. We look forward to connecting online and hope you and yours are safe in these trying times."


Toronto – At a time when mental health issues are at the forefront as the world faces unprecedented anxiety and isolation, today Workman Arts announced the full programming line-up and schedule for the 28th edition of the RENDEZVOUS WITH MADNESS FESTIVAL the largest and longest running arts festival in the world dedicated to the intersection of mental health and artistic expression.

The 2020 festival will run from October 15 – 25, 2020 showcasing 14 feature films and 4 short programs (for a total of 48 films from 24 countries) in an all virtual format of online screenings.  As always, the robust film program will be complemented by the thought-provoking post-screening Q&As and panel discussions that have come to define the Rendezvous With Madness experience. The visual art installation this year, RE:BUILDING RESILIENCE, will be presented from Workman Arts’ long-time home at 651 Dufferin Street with 25 pieces animating the historic space – the largest in the festival’s history.  The live performance work added to the festival three years ago has been integrated into the building-wide activation which also will be presented virtually this year.

Using art as the entry point to illuminate and investigate the realities and mythologies surrounding mental illness and addiction, Rendezvous With Madness’ 2020 programming equally spotlights the human capacity for endurance in the face a great challenges and isolation. “With the emergence of the global pandemic as well as growing awareness of profound racial and structural inequity, discussions around mental health have been critical as we seek ways to cope, process, and reckon with the changing world around us,” says Workman Arts Executive Director Kelly Straughan. “For almost three decades now, Rendezvous With Madness has offered a window into lived experiences of mental health and addiction as well as an access point into conversation and understanding.  In a year that will be defined by great isolation and divisiveness, we hope audiences will continue to come to the festival to find challenging and inspiring pieces of art, as well as understanding and community.”

Managing Director Scott Miller Berry adds, “Many of the films and pieces of art this year serve as vital reminders of the human capacity to endure, to overcome, and to persevere. There were also a staggering number of films this year connected to the theme of environmental impacts to mental health -- whether via relocation, resource extraction or the ongoing harm inflicted on the world’s first peoples and original caretakers. Cinema is the perfect medium to explore these important and challenging issues; we hope the 2020 edition serves as a reminder that we can still connect while apart and continue to find light in these moments.”

The 2020 festival kicks off on October 15th – on the heels of World Mental Health Day – with a limited-capacity in-person screening at Workman Arts (also available online) of JUDY VERSUS CAPITALISM, a reverent and experimental portrait of iconic Canadian feminist activist Judy Rebick by award-winning filmmaker Mike Hoolboom.  A seminal feminist figure known best for her work in the pro-choice movement dating back to the 70’s, Rebick is one of the defining social justice activists in the country.  In 2018, Rebick published the memoir Heroes in my Head, revealing that she had been living with dissociative identity disorder as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Director Mike Hoolboom presents a poignant portrait of Rebick using her own words layered with striking Super-8 footage, contextualized within a stream of consciousness that chronicles Judy’s iconic moments in Canadian history with a lens on her own personal histories and internal landscape. The film will be available online for 48 hours from the 15th – 17thand a post-screening in-person Q&A with director Mike Hoolboom and Judy Rebick will also be live streamed.

Other film highlights in 2020 include NASIR, the sophomore narrative-feature from filmmaker Arun Karthick based on a short story by Dilip Kumar and following a Muslim family man in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, as he navigates the dangerous uprising of Hindu nationalism; the docu-thriller feature documentary THE WORLD IS BRIGHT from Vancouver Director Ying Wang follows the real-life journey of an elderly Chinese couple searching for the truth behind their son’s sudden death in Canada; the North American premiere of the fourth documentary from internationally-acclaimed multidisciplinary artist Hiroshi Sunairi, 48 YEARS – SILENT DICTATOR, follows former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada who, sentenced to death in 1968 for mass murder was held on death row for 48 years only to be exonerated; SHADOW FLOWERS, is a surprising documentary by Academy Award-winner Seung-jun Yi, following a North Korean woman who unwittingly ended up in South Korea in 2011 and has agonized for the past eight years in seeking permission to return to her beloved homeland and family; from South African filmmaker Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, comes THIS IS NOT A BURIAL, IT’S A RESURRECTION, a haunted and unsentimental eulogy to land and its containment of community and ancestry set in the stunning landscape of the Lesotho mountains; and the Canadian premiere of the narrative feature VEINS OF THE WORLD (Die Adern der Welt) from Mongolian filmmaker Byambasuren Davaa (director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Story of the Weeping Camel), is a wondrous coming of age tale that describes living in harmony with nature and the financial instabilities of maintaining the traditions of nomadic people.

Closing out the festival is the rare and powerful documentary from Iran, THE UNSEEN. In preparation for visits from foreign dignitaries, authorities in Tehran clear the streets of homeless people, sex workers and drug users, and take them to special detention centers. When the outside world’s eyes are directed elsewhere the men are released to go back out onto the streets, but the women become official state prisoners for life. In Iran, homeless street people are known as “the cardboard box sleepers” and in THE UNSEEN graphic artist and documaker Behzad Nalbandi uses cardboard and stop-motion animation as his medium to tell the stories of five women living in detention.

Short films will screen alongside many features this year and for the fourth consecutive year, IF YOU ASK ME (IYAM) has supported emerging filmmakers with mental health and/or addiction experiences to create new work. This year’s program features eight shorts by filmmakers across Canada: Malaika Athar, Hanna Donato, Manvinder Gill, Kitoko Kasiama, Jae Lew, Claudia Liz, Samyuktha Movva and Shubhi Sahni.

Three other shorts programs run through the festival: MADWOMXN, featuring films the explore the confluence of mental illness and femme identities; QUARANTINE BLUES is a program of short films by Workman Arts’ members that demonstrate the endless bounds of filmmaking as creative outlet; and HINDSIGHT is a special retrospective of National Film Board of Canada shorts that traverse the topic of mental health and addiction within the NFB’s extensive archive.

This year’s visual arts exhibit, RE:BUILDING RESILIENCE, will be staged at Workman Arts’ long-time home at 651 Dufferin Street, in the festival’s last year there before moving into a brand-new facility at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Featuring 25 installations that examine all facets of mental health issues, this legacy exhibit will animate all 11,000 square feet of 651 Dufferin with performance art, installations, theatre, dance, film and media art.  Entry to the physical exhibit will be timed in respect of maintaining social distancing, and virtual tours will also be available.

Exhibit performance project highlights include Michael ‘Piecez’ Prosserman’s Breathe, a filmed dance performance that highlights Breakin' as an art form with depth, character and history while opening a window into the artist’s experience of anxiety; and Rochelle Richardson’s Queen Latifah Give Me Strength, centered around a woman’s struggle with her identity and the frustration, isolation and raving madness that comes with being a Black woman who must rely on medical professionals to stay alive.

Visual art Installation highlights include Post-Part (Longernin Collective), a room within a room installation that takes inspiration from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper” and re-imagines a 19th century-style brocade wallpaper pattern incorporating "hidden" illustrations, collage elements and sensor-triggered audio, to bring to life the experience of postpartum mood disorders; The Anatomy of A Home (Saba Akhtar) is a multi-media installation exploring a person’s relationship to home that invites audiences to walk through a blueprint of a house etched into the floor and to observe the artifacts placed within; and Kara Stone’s Medication Meditation is a single player game about the daily experience of living with mental illness.

Interactive virtual workshops within RE:BUILDING RESILIENCE include Hanan Hazime’s  The Mad Poetry Apothecary where participants will be prescribed writing prompts that encourage mental wellness, create mixed-media poetry postcards and virtually showcase their work. Paul Butler’s The Collage Party serves as a platform for people of all backgrounds and artistic levels to come together in a virtual setting and experience the benefits of exercising their creativity through collage making.

2020’s online format allows for an even more robust schedule of panels and post-screening Q&As. Most film screenings will be followed by a panel discussion or post-screening filmmaker Q&A, the full schedule of which can be found online. Special panel discussions relating to the RE:BUILDING RESILIENCE exhibition include Literary Balms: the Healing Properties of Art and Text (October 19), a discussion about the restorative power of words, art and performance with artists Hanan Hazime, Alexandra Caprara, Raechel Kula and Moncef Mounir and moderator Andrea Thompson; Spectral Spaces: Re-animating Historical Environs through Current Feminist Discourse (October 20), a discussion about 19th century women who contributed to literature, psychic performances, and notions of maternity with artists Catherine Mellinger, Pazit Cahlon and Megan Moore speaking with moderator Paula John; and Resistant Bodies: The Intersections of Self and Health (October 21), a discussion examining cultural and clinical standardizations of health and its impact on trans, queer, Black and/or disabled bodies, with artists Rochelle Richardson, Vanden Boomen, Ivetta Sunyoung Kang and Sophie Dow.  The master class Too Close For Comfort – Creating an Environment of Care in the Theatre (October 17) features playwright Lorene Stanwick sharing strategies for theatre artists, audiences and performers when dealing with sensitive material.

The RENDEZVOUS WITH MADNESS FESTIVAL is committed to values of inclusivity and accessibility for all guests, staff, volunteers and artists. In line with a commitment to being trauma-informed, each program will offer an active listener to help provide self-care and emotional support. This year’s Virtual Held Spaces are staffed by active listeners who will be available by text, phone and video chat during and after programs, to debrief the programs, offer resources or just talk about your day. Information for accessing virtual support will be available on the website.

ASL translation is being offered for select programs, open captioning is available for all film programs, and live captioning is available for all online Q&As and panels.  Learn more about accessibility initiatives at Rendezvous at

Tickets for RENDEZVOUS WITH MADNESS FESTIVAL events will be available to book beginning September 21st online at or by phone (416-583-4339 Mon-Fri 10 am-4 pm). All tickets for 2020 programming are Pay-What-You-Can and must be booked online in advance.