I was having trouble figuring out how to review Insanity because it’s such a personal project.  It’s less of a conventional documentary and more of an outlet for filmmaker Wendy Hill-Tout (Marlene) and her family to decompress and reflect on James Bruce Hill-Tout, Wendy’s missing and homeless Schizophrenic brother.

The film is also billed as a POV documentary, and I wasn’t sure what that meant.  If it referred to Hill-Tout’s experience with mental illness, I was concerned by how her personal angle would work with the more informational content regarding how mentally ill people are treated in North America.  Footage of Wendy wandering the streets, trying to have the homeless community identify her brother with a photograph she has are haunting and heartbreaking images. But, dramatized cutaways featuring actor Brandon DeWyn portraying Wendy’s lost brother confused me even more because I wasn’t sure what additional context his broody performance provided.

Then it hit me: Shirley Chan, the vice-president of Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society, is a prominent interview.  Chan mentioned a family-to-family program that she and her husband took to better understand mental illness while already trying to comprehend what their daughter was struggling with.  Just like the program, Wendy Hill-Tout’s documentary is a resource for families to relate to.  It’s an aid for similar movie goers, like Wendy, who are looking to share and project their feelings with.  The filmmaking may be disarming, but it’s also taking a backseat for its emotional sincerity and catharsis to bleed through.

Insanity is currently being screened as a roadshow to specific movie theatres around Canada, and I hope it can reach the right audience.  With the doc resembling the same qualities as a segment on a newsmagazine show (like CBS’ 60 Minutes or a streamable report featured on TVO Docs), one does wonder if Insanity will eventually find its way on a more accessible platform to spread awareness on its themes, including injustice to those who are suffering from a mental illness.  But until then, if you’re looking for an olive branch and you feel Insanity would speak to you, it’s a worthwhile project to watch.  You may find it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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