Film festival explores addiction and recovery

Vasek Matousek with one of his hanging sculptures.

The South African Recovery Film Festival returns for a fourth year, continuing its focus on films exploring themes of addiction, mental health issues and recovery.

The festival is taking place at the Labia Theatre, 68 Orange Street, Gardens, from tomorrow, Thursday September 22 to Sunday September 25 in partnership with the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). September is International Recovery Month.

“Every one knows someone who is negatively effected by substance abuse, whether alcohol or drugs. Process addictions such as sex, gambling, eating problems, gaming and technology are seemingly increasing. The problems are all too evident, and the impacts on every level of society all too obvious. However, the solutions are too seldom celebrated,” says festival organiser, Dougie Dudgeon.

“The South African Recovery Film Festival encourages those in recovery to come together as active members of their communities, as role models and credible messengers of hope. We believe recovery needs to be celebrated, and addiction needs to be understood, so we welcome those in recovery, family, friends, health care professionals, carers of all types, policy makers, law enforcement, and most of all anyone who likes good films.”

The organisers say socio-economic challenges including poverty, homelessness and rampant violent crime are almost invariably interlaced with substance abuse and addiction. That is the visible face of the addiction pandemic, but there is an invisible aspect too such as dependency disorders hidden behind a mask of normalcy and upward mobility, individuals teetering on the edge, families ripped apart, relationships redefined.

The Recovery Film Festival draws a spotlight on these challenges, raising awareness and going behind the mask.

“More importantly the festival highlights the heroic path to recovery that many have chosen – a pathway that was only faintly visible to them from within the darkness of their dependency”, says SACAP’s chief executive, Lance Katz.

“These are not the actions of super-human Olympians but rather ordinary men and women who courageously chose life instead of death. This is the most empowering message of the festival – that recovery is not the preserve of a few elite but a possibility for all addiction sufferers”.

The festival opening night tomorrow will host the South African premier of (DIS) Honesty – The Truth About Lies, a film about the ambivalent culture of truth The showing of the documentary will be followed with a Q&A looking at the South African context of issues raised, and the concept of personal honesty.

The festival line-up also includes Kindgdom of Shadows, which takes an unflinching look at the hard choices and destructive consequences of the US-Mexico “drug war,” and the result of policies followed throughout the West; My Name Is… is the frank story of eight people and their tempestuous relationship with alcohol; in The Adventures Of Dr Crackhead difficult questions about society’s approach to addiction are asked; Call Me Lucky looks at the issues raised by sex abuse; My Name Was Bette chronicles the progression of alcoholism in the life of Bette VandenAkker, a nurse, wife, and mother, who died of the disease in 2007; Almost Holy follows Ukranian pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko’s unorthodox and controversial quest over the course of the last 15 years, removing children from the streets or unsuitable homes and taking them to his rehab and housing facility; Ruben Guthrie is about ad man Ruben Guthrie who leads a party boy lifestyle, at the top of his game, until some drunken skylarking lands him at the bottom of his infinity pool, lucky to be alive; Stones is based on true events and tells the story of Alex, a talented singer/songwriter blighted by alcoholism; Louis Theroux Drinking To Oblivion asks what happens when drinking loses its social aspect and becomes a potentially fatal compulsion; Generation Found is a powerful story about one community coming together to ignite a youth addiction recovery revolution in their hometown; in Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue, Oscar nominated Amy J.Berg presents an insightful portrait of the original “rock Chick”, featuring archival footage, performances and contemporary interviews and charting Janis’ musical rise in the 1960s and her battle with alcohol and heroin addiction and Secret World Of Recovery engages families, friends and neighbours, as well as policymakers and the media, in a much-needed dialogue. This documentary offers a framework for wider discussions to bring new understanding, create demand for improved policies, and help families and communities to heal.

All the documentaries in the line-up are showing in South Africa for the first time. To see the full programme, visit www.thesouthafricanrecoveryfilmfestival. co.za

Tickets at R50 are available from Webtickets at www.webtickets.co.za.