Newspaper article

Moving Pictures: Basilica Mental Health Film Festival Aims to Spark Discussion, Understanding

Newspaper article

Moving Pictures: Basilica Mental Health Film Festival Aims to Spark Discussion, Understanding

Article excerpt

The idea of hosting a mental health film festival at the Basilica of St. Mary happened organically, almost on a whim.

The massive, landmark Catholic co-cathedral, home to some 12,000 members from 56 ZIP codes, has had a mental health ministry for nearly a decade now, said Janet Grove, Basilica ministry coordinator. The 30-member ministry was founded by a group of parishioners who have family members with mental illness or live with mental illness themselves. They work together to educate the church community about mental illness and confront misconceptions about people who live with a mental health diagnosis.

The decision to host the festival was spontaneous, Grove recalled: "At one of our meetings, we were talking about outreach, and a few of the group members came up with the idea of hosting a film festival. Without much hesitation, we all said, 'Let's just try it.' Turns out it's been a really good fit for us. It's one the highlights of our congregation's mental health work."

Grove said that the festival has maintained that same natural, community-driven feeling in the four years since its founding: That's one of its appeals.

"The festival has really come out of the committee and their desires," she said. Films are selected in part to spark conversation about mental health topics. "The post-film discussions are really what's so incredible. We've seen such different perspectives on all of the films. Nobody's afraid to say, 'I didn't like that at all.' And that's so important."

Discussion helps break down barriers and misconceptions about mental illness, Grove said. A few years ago, when the theme was "'Children, Youth and Young Adults with Mental Illness,' the festival staged a revival of the 1980 film "Ordinary People."

"After all these years, the film still really holds up," Grove said. "After the film, the discussion centered around whether Mary Tyler Moore's character was a good mother or not. Some people thought she was spot on, that she did what was best for her son. And others said, 'How could she behave like that?' That led to a great discussion about mental illness in a family."

Selection process

This year's festival theme is "Mental Illness and the Arts." Each year, in preparation, Grove, an avid film buff, searches for contenders, and then selects around 10 films for a group of committee members to screen and rank.

"Usually I get about four or so people who are interested in watching the movies and taking notes and telling me what they feel about it," Grove said. Grove and her family also review the films.

Films are selected for their content and connection to the year's theme. Just because the films are screened in a church doesn't mean that they have to be squeaky clean.

"We have shown R-rated films," Grove said. "We are not afraid of that. Two years ago, for instance, we watched 'Silver Linings Playbook. …

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