Reel Comfort: Real Impact


At TIFF, we believe in the power of film to spark conversation, engage audiences, and connect people. We believe audiences of all ages and backgrounds deserve this rich experience, which is why accessibility, diversity, and inclusion are at the heart of what we do.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017, our Reel Comfort programme works with 1,000 individuals living with mental illness each year, by supporting them on their path to wellness through hands-on workshops, special guest visits, and film screenings.

Reel Comfort “living-collage” workshop facilitated by artist Winnie Truong

2017 – By the Numbers

  • 100+ Reel Comfort events at 12 inpatient and community-based mental health programs across Toronto
  • 1000+ participants engaged
  • 30 creators engaged (to date) as guest speakers or workshop facilitators
  • 10 community partner groups at the Festival

Reel Comfort “living-collage” workshop facilitated by artist Winnie Truong

“An unfortunate reality with mental illness and with many of our members is that we can often leave ‘fun’ out of the recovery equation. Arts-based, therapeutic, social programming like that offered by TIFF is tremendously therapeutic and brought our clients together to learn more about film, connect with one another, acknowledge their strengths and write about them, and much more.”

— Lauren Drouillard, Program Manager, Sheena’s Place, a not-for-profit organization that supports individuals, families, and friends affected by eating disorders

Reel Comfort “living-collage” workshop facilitated by artist Winnie Truong

Program Snapshots

1. In March, TIFF Reel Comfort participated in the Able Artists series organized by the H’art Centre in Kingston, Ontario. This series brings together local artists, community leaders, established Canadian artists with disabilities, and other leaders working within the inclusive arts sphere. The presentation focused on cultivating community wellness and engagement through film, and it included interactive exercises and takeaway resources that attendees — arts council members, mental health and addictions workers, film students, and representatives from the Kingston Film Festival — could implement in their own contexts.

2. Toronto-based artist Winnie Truong facilitated a series of “living-collage” workshops in which participants used iPads and cutouts from old National Geographic magazines and TIFF 180° guides to create simple, kinetic GIFs. The workshop blended old techniques of stop-motion animation and collage with new modes of storytelling and digital technology to provide a therapeutic and an expressive outlet for all involved.

3. This summer, Reel Comfort supervised two Occupational Therapy MSc students who completed a joint practical placement at TIFF and Sheena’s Place, a not-for-profit organization that supports those affected by eating disorders. Here, students designed film programming for the clientele at Sheena’s Place in consultation with clinical staff, filmmakers, and members of the programming team at TIFF. Reel Comfort event highlights include: a film criticism workshop on the controversial Netflix film To the Bone, facilitated by critic and programmer Kiva Reardon; a screening of the documentary Maison du Bonheur followed by a discussion with driector Sofia Bohdanowicz; and a variety of storytelling workshops incorporating principles of improv, poetry, and animation. At the end of their placement, students left both TIFF and Sheena’s Place with a rich toolkit for developing this work further.

4. Filmmaker Fantavious Fritz (Paradise Falls, Lewis) facilitated two music video workshops at CAMH (Partial Hospitalization Program) and STAR Learning Centre. Participants worked together to create evocative videos to accompany the crooning of Toronto-based musician LUKA, who was present at one of the workshops to share insight into his own creative process as a songwriter. For those who have few therapeutic and recreational activities available to them, this fantastic experience helped to nurture relationships and foster feelings of accomplishment and creativity.

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