Growing exponentially every year, the Au Contraire Film Festival is back for its seventh year and will be running October 22-24 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The annual festival focuses on mental health issues, with various international films on the topic as well as interactive panel discussions.

The philanthropic event’s mission is to bring awareness to both the public as well as public policymakers, and to shed light on the various organizations and charities that are available to those who are struggling with mental wellness. The international program is aimed at high schools, human resource and health professionals, the mental health community, and the general public.

This year, there will be nine Canadian premieres and four North American premieres, with Germany, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the United States, France, the Netherlands and Russia all participating. Recording artist Florence K will be the spokesperson for the event. A screening will also be held that specifically focuses on human resources professionals who are charged with dealing with both short- and long-term disability benefits as mental illness represents about 30 per cent of all claims received by an employer.

“This year we received and reviewed over 300 international submissions,” said Philip Silverberg, founder of the Au Contraire Film Festival. “Every year the festival is gaining traction and notoriety, and the uniqueness of our festival model after seven years is maturing. And that model is one of philanthropy. We use the festival to not only help destigmatize mental illness and change peoples’ perceptions, but we’re also focused on helping causes, and that is what sets us apart in the world.”

Of the hundreds of entries, 25 films made it into the festival.

“We always want to try and show a spectrum of films from many different countries, because we want to show our audiences that the problem is universal,” Silverberg said. “By having one voice, we are doing something to potentially influence public policy. The more people that come out and talk about mental illness, the more research money is allocated to mental health research. Although it’s not our principal goal, we can see our seven years has brought a definitive change of public awareness both in society and in the workplace, and we’re trying to do our part to raise the issues.”

The Au Contraire Film Festival runs October 22-24 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. For more information, visit www.acff.ca

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