Open spaces

Atlantic Minds Wide Open film festival fosters community and mental wellness

A still from Sudela-Junker's My Name is Faith
A still from Sudela-Junker's My Name is Faith

The Atlantic Minds Wide Open film festival ( takes a look at mental illness and wellness both in our communities and on the big screen. Featuring local and international films and panel discussions on the topic of mental wellness, the day long festival aims to educate as well as entertain.

“As a psychologist I’m excited about exploring the positive side of human nature that exists even in challenging issues like mental illness and addiction and helping the larger community understand those issues,” says co-coordinator Andrew Starzomski. “We all encounter them in our personal lives in some way at one point or another. Many of the folks whose work or stories will appear in the festival have had the experience of losing a sense of belonging to community, and this filmfest community that is evolving is a really great way of addressing that.”

Events include panels by Michael Kimber, Sobaz Benjamin of iMove, former NFB director Kent Martin (presenting his new film), shorts from Rose Cousins, Robyn Badger, Andrea Dorfman, the Jonathan Torrens produced feature A Walk In My Dream, Tiffany Sudela-Junker’s documentary about her adopted daughter, My Name is Faith (Sudela-Junker and her daughter will be in attendance for the Atlantic Canadian premiere), plus an animated short from Scotland. Starzomski hopes that the festival will help attendees “perhaps rethink some assumptions about illness or addiction or even consider how they could get involved in this really wonderful process of making films. We hope this contributes to people leaving the festival and talking more about mental health with their friends and family—what can they do to build up their own mental health and enhance their quality of life and connection with others?”

The team behind Atlantic Minds Wide Open hope to open attendees’ minds to new ways of treating mental illness, the healing power of creativity and community being one.

“We are trying to show that mental health and wellness is about more than narrow definitions of treating an illness—that wonderful things are going on in families, neighbourhoods and communities all over the world which are enriching for everyone, and film is a powerful way to share that and grow it. We are about lots of things: illness and health, old and young, individuals and groups, depth and fun. We also hope this grows into a social enterprise over time that will provide interesting employment and artistic opportunities for folks in our community; we were able to take some neat steps in that direction this year,” says Starzomski. “We hope to attract more buzz and interest this year so we can grow the fest to a multi-day event next year as there is lots of great stuff out there—nearby and farther afield.”

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