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“This Is Why We Do This” Get Reel Film Fest 2022

by | Aug 30, 2022

A wide angle shot of the TIFF stage, with the panelists sitting on directors chairs in front of the big movie screen. On the screen is the film festival logo "Get Reel Film Fest."

It’s been a few months…but we’re still reeling from the second year of our festival. 

In June 2022, we hosted the Get Reel Film Festival, a week-long celebration of mental health films. The festival included a hybrid line-up of 2 feature length films, 15 short films, 3 panel discussions and 2 workshops. It was the first time that we were able to offer scholarships to emerging filmmakers. 4 filmmakers created shorts on mental health topics, which premiered at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on opening night.

Unwavering support

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of our title sponsor, Lori McBurney. Lori is a longtime supporter of Stella’s Place and is also the co-chair of our Family Advisory Council. “I believe that access to mental health services is a fundamental right, not a privilege,” says Lori, “I also believe that our young adults are confronted with unique challenges in this complicated world which require age-appropriate services tailored to their specific needs.” After watching their films on opening night, Lori had this message for the talented young artists:

“I just want to thank each of you for your brilliant work last night. Your work will educate, open discussion, change opinions and save lives. On a personal note, I have experienced mental health and addiction in my role as granddaughter, niece, daughter, wife, mother and personally. My 88 year old mother was in attendance with me for the screenings. On leaving, my mother said, ‘I finally get it!’ So keep doing what you are doing and ‘keep it reel’.” –Lori McBurney

Images by Daniel Fast

Grants that make a difference

The ability to offer film grants informed our mission and greatly enhanced the 2022 festival. We wanted to create an opportunity for young filmmakers to tell their stories and to encourage others to engage. From a pool of over 30 applicants, 4 recipients were chosen: Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto, Emmanuel Teji, Dizzy Ricamara and Luke Galati.

“I was actually at a low point when I wrote the application,” shares Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto. “I was unemployed at the time and waiting for immigration documents and just so burnt out that I didn’t know if I could take another “no”. Receiving this grant really saved me from a downward spiral and I am so grateful to you for providing a safe and supportive space for me to create and be vulnerable as we slowly re-adjust to post-pandemic life.”

“This is why we do this” 

The 4 filmmakers created fictional short films as well as documentaries on mental health topics deeply personal and relevant to them. They included eating disorders, community healing and peer support, suicidal ideation, isolation and crisis response. To get a sense of the creativity and courage of these talented artists, please meet them in these clips from one of the media opportunities they were able to engage in.

The opening night on June 6 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox was sold out and a resounding success. Dizzy Ricamara, who showcased her documentary on the Community Healing Project, beautifully summarized the evening’s  impact like this:

“Thank you for putting on such a spectacular night. What started off as an idea is truly blossoming into great things for the city! Last night I had 3 people come up to me and ask for Stellas Place/CHP counselling services after watching the films. This is why we do this and we couldn’t have done it without you!”

Images by Daniel Fast

“A tree is only as strong as the forest that surrounds it”

In an intimate setting, our second in-person screening during the film fest week introduced the audience to 2 families who shared their films and stories. Filmmakers Michelle Melles and Shabnam Sukhdev screened their documentaries back to back. Both films follow a young woman’s mental health journey, seen through the lens of their mothers. The films invite us to rethink the ways in which we perceive and discuss mental health. In the panel discussion afterwards, family members did not shy away from difficult topics and dark moments but connected deeply with each other and the audience through humour, vulnerability, compassion and love that was palpable. In the words of our moderator Catherine Dyer, “Your courage to love, transform, share and heal gave me and the audience so many gifts.” 

Shabnam Sukhdev responded,“I reciprocate your gratitude, manifold! The essence of Michelle’s words resonate with me: we are like trees deeply connected in the forest of ‘life’. Hope this event becomes a catalyst for many more to come, allowing for a transformational shift in perceptions of mental health. Kudos to everyone!”

Images by Christina Tanel

Looking ahead

The festival engaged over 300 community members in a week of discussion, healing, listening and learning. It’s because of our wonderful, passionate and committed supporters that we are able to keep offering this important event. We are deeply grateful to Lori McBurney for her title sponsorship, to LiUNA! Local 183, John Byrne & Megan Tate and family, the Azrieli Foundation, Janet Newlands, Maureen Flanagan and Astrid Willemsen. A huge thank you as well to our audience members, donors and supporters, our print partner, Eva’s Print Shop, our Family Advisory Council, and to all of the filmmakers, panelists, staff, and volunteers who made this event possible. 

If you are interested in getting involved in Get Reel Film Fest 2023, please get in touch by sending an email to getreel@stellasplace.ca.