Students’ short will screen at Rendezvous With Madness festival

A mini-documentary called The Wall made by three York film students will be shown Nov. 10 at the Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival in Toronto.

The two-minute video follows York medical historian Geoffrey Reaume as he gives a tour of a brick wall built by psychiatric patients more than 100 years ago around what is now the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. The Wall is one of four mini-documentaries commissioned by York’s Institute for Health Research to highlight health research at the University. The videos were produced by 13 graduate film students and showcased at a Faculty of Health open house in January.

Left: Kathleen Mullen (far left), Chris McCarroll and Jane Kim

Students Jane Kim, Chris McCarroll and Kathleen Mullen wrote, directed and filmed The Wall as a project for their production class. The short features Super 8 images of the wall, video footage of the tour, historical stills from the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) and voice-over by Reaume. The two-minute film took about two months to finish.

When the three discovered that Reaume gives tours of the wall, they quickly recognized the visual power of the brick structure to suggest Reaume’s research, said Mullen.

Reaume, a mental health system survivor, teaches critical disabilities history and health ethics at York. He still leads wall tours as a kind of "moral therapy" to those who have underestimated the talents of, or mistreated, psychiatric patients, and to give psychiatric survivors a sense of their own history. He uncovered the history of the wall while researching his doctoral thesis, Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940, published in 2000.

Right: Geoffrey Reaume (front) gives tour of a wall built more than 100 years ago by unpaid psychiatric patients 

 "The wall preserves history," he told YFile earlier this year. "It is a symbol of prejudice, confinement and oppression. By preserving it we can liberate their stories and ensure that the men and women who lived, worked and died behind the wall are remembered and respected as worthwhile human beings." A Rendezvous panellist in previous years, Reaume sees the festival in a similar light – as a chance to highlight the issues around mental health.

Mullen, who curated a program of shorts at last year’s Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival, submitted The Wall for this year’s festival. The Wall will be shown on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1:30pm in the Workman Theatre, CAMH, 1001 Queen St. W.