CAN there be meaning in madness? Definitely, according to the people interviewed in Crazywise, one of the key selections for this year's Byron Bay International Film Festival in October.
Following the rollercoaster rides of several North American "crazies”, the documentary challenges the Western notion of mental illness as a "broken brain”, to be "fixed” or at least managed by an endless regimen of unreliable, even harmful pharmaceuticals, usually with no real recovery achieved.
An alternative, suggests one of the film's makers Phil Borges, is to look at how more ancient cultures view people who hear voices and have visions. Mr Borges, a well-known speaker in TED Talks, visits indigenous societies from Mongolia to the Amazon, where they are embraced, guided by elders, and frequently become shaman, or healers.
Happily, among the Americans in the film who have been spurned by their families and friends as a result of their mental turmoil, some are able to follow this path, having benefited from the best "cure” of all, acceptance, connection and community support, and finding their vocation in helping others.
This year's festival, the 11th, features several films examining the meaning of sanity and, because this is Byron, the various alternatives.
Take Vincent van Gogh, labelled and hounded as a madman yet his work, revered by BBFF's late patron Paul Cox, is clearly the product of creative genius.
A festival highlight will be Loving Vincent, a film that brings alive many of the Dutch master's paintings, and has their subjects speak to us, by means of "painting animations” - the filmmakers re-imagining of 94 of Vincent's paintings into the medium of film. More than 65,000 frames in fact.
Alongside these outstanding features is a selection that makes BBFF such a unique event it is: a reflection of the local culture, including films on surfing, music, environmental activism, First Nations cultures, and a stimulating showcase of the work of young Australian filmmakers, including several from Byon Shire and surrounds, as well as other innovators from around the world.
It's the town's annual visual feast, a cornucopia of drama, comedy, fun - and the chance to immerse yourself in the newest dimension, virtual reality.
Then there's the parties: BBFF kicks off with Byron Bay's red carpet event of the year, when the region's film fraternity and movie fans can meet and mingle with celebrities from all corners of the world's cinema - actors, directors, producers - to celebrate Opening Night.
"The Opening Night Gala party is the chance for locals to put on the Ritz, frock up, turn up and possibly play up for Byron's most glam social occasion - and for visitors to immerse themselves in the buzzy, welcoming ambience of its pre-eminent social occasion,” festival director J'Aimee Skippon-Volke said.
"With filmmakers from Australia and abroad attending, and the chance to rub shoulders with some of cinema's most well-known performers, the party is a high point on the region's cultural calendar - with a cutting-edge film thrown in.
"While the sparkling conversation provides food for the mind, the senses are catered for too.
"Guests receive the star treatment at both the opening and closing night parties, enjoying local delicacies, great music and fine wines.”
Gala tickets for Opening Night on Friday, October 5, and Closing Night on Saturday, October 14 on sale now at bbff.com.au
BBFF17 runs from October 6-15 at Byron Community Centre with screenings at the Pighouse Cinema, and in Brunswick Heads and Murwillumbah.
http://bbff.com.au/Loving Vincent trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47h6pQ6StCk
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