September is a busy month, we had World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th, my birthday (maybe not as important to everyone else but I think it’s worth mentioning) and we have Recovery Month, a month-long celebration of the work being done across the UK to support people to recover from drug and alcohol dependence.
As part of Recovery Month we also have the Recovery Street Film Festival (RSFF), an annual competition which aims to empower people affected by drug and alcohol dependence to tell their story of recovery and help tackle the stigma associated with addiction. The festival is delivered in partnership with six health and social care charities - Action on Addiction, Blenheim, Change Grow Live (CGL), Phoenix Futures, Steps 2 Recovery and Turning Point. Additional organisations and businesses also support the festival.
Each year the festival invites people from all sorts of backgrounds (people in treatment, people in recovery, people affected by the drug or alcohol use of a loved one, or even professionals) to make and submit a 3 minutes film about their experience. There is a different theme each year and participants are asked to link this theme to their film. For 2018 the theme was ‘my lightbulb moment’ and filmmakers were invited to share that moment, or those moments, that inspired them to make a change to their lives.
A launch event is held at the beginning of September and the ten shortlisted films are screened, with the three winning films announced and awarded prizes. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the efforts of participants and seeing the films on the big screen really does add to their impact. The shortlisted films are also made available via the RSFF Youtube channel, which enables anyone to hold their own screening and enjoy the films all year round!
Why is the festival important?
So why a film festival? What’s the benefit of telling these stories on camera? It’s pretty simple really, films tell a story that words or pictures on their own can’t.
How many times have you sat and watched a sad film and found yourself crying? How about a comedy where you can’t help but laugh along? Film communicates with us, it allows our sight and hearing to connect with our emotions and engages us to pay attention to the story. As a medium, film is highly effective at taking us on a journey and keeping our interest...even more so when the films are only three minutes long!
Recovery is often seen and recognised by people within the health and social care field, we work with it daily, see the struggles and successes of service users and get to celebrate the achievements as they happen. More widely, the public don’t see this, they are shown the negative side of addiction, the crime, the anti-social behaviour, the damage it does to families. This negative side is important, don’t get me wrong, as it can motivate others not to start down that path or help to recognise when it’s time to change. But for someone in the grip of addiction or seeing a loved one affected by drug and alcohol abuse, there’s a need for hope, to understand that there is a way out and to break down the stigma surrounding addiction.
The film festival shines a light on these stories, it recognises the struggles people have had but ultimately demonstrates that change is possible and recovery can be achieved by anyone with the right support.
So what does it do and what’s next?
We aim for the film festival to tell honest, open accounts of recovery (the bad stuff is still there too) and hope that the stories inspire others to seek help or know that they can make a change to their lives.
We hope that the films also challenge the stigma surrounding this topic, that they show a more holistic picture of this world and ultimately provide the audience with an opportunity to understand what recovery is and why it is important.
You can help spread this message, in a really easy way. Simply watch the films and share them with your community.
Hold a screening in your service, office or community and invite discussions about the topic. Show the films in your reception area, grab a laptop or smartphone, download our app and watch them in your living room, or just watch them online yourself and learn more about the importance of recovery.
The film festival is live and touring throughout September as part of Recovery Month but you can watch them all year round and start planning your entry to the 2019 Recovery Street Film Festival.
For more information, visit our website, follow us on Twitter (@RecoveryFilms) and Instagram (@RecoveryStreetFilmFest) and like us on Facebook.