Updated 17 September 2015

SA Recovery Film Festival: September 2015

The South African Recovery Film Festival focuses on documentary films that explore the themes of addiction and mental health issues.


Focusing on documentary films that explore the themes of addiction and mental health issues, the South African Recovery Film Festival will be hosted in both Cape Town and Johannesburg again during September, International Recovery Month.

In its third year, the Festival has partnered with SACAP (The South African College of Applied Psychology) and aims to educate, entertain, inform and to promote the solutions and successes of recovery.

Read: What is alcohol?

The Festival is running from 24th to 27th September at the Labia in Cape Town and The Bioscope in Johannesburg. 

Negative impacts

The festival hopes to lift some of the stigma that surrounds addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues. Shame and ignorance often drive these conditions making access to help difficult.

Read: Alcohol the most dangerous drug for kids

“The effects of alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues effect all communities in South Africa increasing crime and violence, fuelling neglect of families with negative impacts on work, study and much more”, says festival organiser, Dougie Dudgeon.

“However, the positive impact of Recovery – fall in crime and violence, rebuilding families, ability to work, those in recovery becoming active members of communities, role models and credible messengers of hope – needs to be celebrated."

The South African Recovery Film Festival acts as a catalyst for positive change. Using film as an extremely powerful edutainment medium to share in the trials and tribulations of real-life people who have struggled with addiction.

"The festival draws the spotlight on the psycho-social causes and effects of addiction and helps to destigmatise it,” says Lance Katz, Chief Executive at SACAP. “Most importantly, the hopeful theme of recovery underscores the entire event, highlighting the solutions that exist and demonstrating through the powerful success stories of ordinary heroes that addiction can be beaten.”

Read: Born drunk: Cape teen defies the evils of alcoholism

Opening night (24th September) will be the South African premier of "A Royal Hangover” – a film about the ambivalent alcohol culture of Britain. Think Bowling For Columbine, only with alcohol instead of guns. The showing of the documentary will be followed by a panel discussion, looking at the South African context and issues.

The Festival line-up includes:

Chet Baker – Let's get lost : A penetrating Oscar-nominated documentary on the life of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker (1929-1988). In-depth interviews with Baker's friends and co-workers paint a portrait of a troubled genius, whose drug addiction and womanising gradually eroded his talent.

Much of the terminal footage is literally that, showing in harsh detail what Chet Baker had become in his last year on earth.

Radioman: Mary Kerr’s feature-length documentary debut tells the extraordinary story of Craig Castaldo – a.k.a. Radioman, a New York film set "mascot" who has appeared fleetingly in over 100 features, beginning with The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1990.

Read: Alcohol kills 1 in 25

Defined by his ever-present portable radio, slung like a medallion around his neck, he’s overcome homelessness and alcoholism to carve himself a niche on the outskirts of the movie industry. Like Castaldo himself, Radioman is star-struck and features a celestial line-up of talking heads, with George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Matt Damon among the interviewees.

OC87: Bradford (Buddy) Clayman is a 47-year-old, white, upper-middle-class, Jewish only child from Philadelphia. While awkward and teased as an adolescent, it was not until the end of high school and during his time as a film and TV student at Temple University that he developed major mental illness.

He reports that he has all the conditions listed in the movie's subtitle, and I suppose he did. "OC87" refers to the year 1987, when his obsessional disorder drove him into full retreat from a life with people.

No time to think : This independent documentary focuses on the problem of technology addiction – a concern that has, in recent years, drawn considerable attention from media outlets, scientific research and, most significantly, parents of children and young adults who use technology for social contact and education.

Of two minds: The award-winning new documentary from the creative team of "Wordplay", "These Amazing Shadows" and "Superheroes". Eschewing medical explanations and expert opinions, “Of Two Minds” examines the experience of bipolar disorder through first-hand testimony from three people coping with it in varying ways.

Addicts' symphony: Despite clichés that musicians are show-offs, many (regardless of talent) fear playing to an audience on stage. Symptoms can include anxiety and hyperalertness days before, then vomiting, diarrhoea, irritability, mood swings, tremors and heart palpitations on the day itself.

Despite these symptoms, the actual performance is usually unaffected as the player gets a "high" from performing and audience reactions. "Addicts Symphony" follows 10 musicians all with substance problems as they struggle to overcome their demons whilst preparing to play a very special concert.

Cocaine unwrapped: "Cocaine Unwrapped" takes on the global economy and human toll of the "war" on cocaine.

Read: 9 most common street drugs

From the farmers in Bolivia who grow coca leaves as their livelihood to Ecuadorian single mothers who are drug mules out of crippling poverty to the violence of the Mexican trafficking trade where thousands die every year, the film explores the international network of violence, imprisonment, poverty, and addiction that the drug causes in it's wake.

Back from the edge: Bill Lichtenstein, a former investigative producer for ABC News turned his attention to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in "Back From The Edge", featuring the intimate stories of three people living with and are recovering from BPD. The production features leading clinical and therapeutic experts in the field and continues to add to Lichtenstein’s award winning body of work.

Web junkie: China is the first country to label “internet addiction” a clinical disorder. With extraordinary intimacy, "Web Junkie" investigates a Beijing rehab centre where Chinese teenagers are deprogrammed, focusing on three teens, their parents and the health professionals determined to help them kick their habit.

Normal (SA short): John and Mykyle are both outsiders. One is a doctor who works in a community very different to his own.

The other is unfairly placed outside of what society considers "normal" due to the stigma around mental illness. This film shows the value each of them brings to the world and takes an honest look at the subject of mental illness, something that afflicts as many as one in three adult South Africans in their lifetimes.

Released (short): Shyla Idris is a self-taught painter, photographer, actor, writer and filmmaker. Her first film, "Released", is a documentary shot on suicide and the failure of the mental health system. The film premiered at The NYC Reel Recovery Film Festival 2015.

She is currently writing her memoir "Committed" about her childhood and later commitment to the infamous Creedmoor Psychiatric Centre. She dedicates her work to her late twin brother Robbie and survivors everywhere

The Russell Brand double bill: Ten years ago Russell Brand was addicted to heroin, his career was unravelling and he was told he may only have six months to live. The story of how he battled to stay clean of drugs is at the heart of "From Addiction To Recovery", this eye-opening and searingly honest, personal film in which Brand challenges how our society deals with addicts and addiction.

Read: Heroin overdose deaths in US quadrupled since 2000

In the tragic wake of the death of his friend Amy Winehouse, Brand was driven to this exploration of the "condition of addiction" which he believes, is misunderstood and wrongly treated. Brand meets a whole range of people from whom he draws insights: scientists at the cutting edge of research into the psychology of addiction, those involved in innovative recovery treatments and drug addicts themselves.

Is addiction a disease? Should it be criminalised? Is abstinence based recovery, which worked for Brand, a possible way forward?

The second film "End The War On Drugs" takes the debate to the international stage questioning policy makers and opinion formers, examines success stories like the “Portuguese model”, and more controversial solutions across Europe whilst continuing the thread of personal stories developed in the first documentary.  

The Sunday matinee

The man with the golden arm: Released in 1955, the film, based on the novel of the same name by Nelson Algren was controversial as the first major Hollywood project to tackle the marginalised issue of illicit drug use. The film uniquely portrayed heroin as a serious literary topic as it rejected the standard "dope fiend" approach of the time.

Telling the story of a heroin addict who gets clean while in prison, but struggles to stay that way in the outside world, the film, starring Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, was nominated for three Academy Awards including Sinatra for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Sinatra was also nominated for best actor awards by the BAFTAs and The New York Film Critics.

These documentaries are all showing in South Africa for the first time. To see the full programme
Tickets are available from Webtickets  and cost R45-00 per ticket.

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