23 Aug 2023

Aotearoa's first-ever mental health film festival to be held this year

From Morning Report, 8:57 am on 23 August 2023
movie camera

Photo: Cottonbro / Pexels

This November, a collection of short films depicting the reality of mental health struggles will be screened in the first-ever Aotearoa Mental Health Film Festival.

Although half of Kiwis experience severe emotional distress during their lifetimes, people with mental illness are often depicted as either violent or comical onscreen, Mental Health Foundation CE Shaun Robinson tells Corin Dann.

Mental Health Foundation's chief executive, Shaun Robinson.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson. Photo: Supplied / Mental Health Foundation

"'Unfortunately mainstream films don't have a good record of portraying mental health issues realistically. They tend to perpetuate myths. About half of them people show as violent, as people to be mocked, to be stigmatised and made fun of or feared… none of which is actually fair reasonable or the truth."

Relatable portrayals of mental health struggles are often found in short independent films, Robinson says, and it's these that the organisers are calling out for.

So far, around 600 original short films have been submitted and 10 to 15 of these will be shown at the film festival.

Robinson says the festival selectors are looking for films that show it's possible to live a positive life even while managing ongoing mental health issues.

"I know that for sure because I live with bipolar disorder and I have a really good life."

The Aotearoa Mental Health Film Festival is accepting film submissions until 17 September.

Current screening dates and locations are here, with more centres to be added if sponsorship is found.