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The South African Recovery Film Festival 2016

sa_recovery_film_festivalThe South African Recovery Film Festival returns for a 4th year, continuing its focus on films exploring themes of addiction, mental health issues and recovery. The festival is taking place at the Labia in Cape Town and at the Bioscope in Johannesburg from 22 to 25 September 2016.

The Festival, which has once again partnered with SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology), aims to educate, entertain, inform and promote solutions and successes of Recovery from addiction is part of the International Recovery Month initiative which sees thousands of events take place all around the world. Addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues remain clouded by stigma and lack of understanding. The shame and ignorance often surrounding these conditions make accessing help lonely and difficult despite the reality that we are all affected.

“Every one knows someone who is negatively effected by substance abuse, whether alcohol or drugs. Process addictions such as sex, gambling, eating problems, gaming and technology are seemingly increasing. The problems are all too evident, and the impacts on every level of society all too obvious. However, the solutions are too seldom celebrated,” says festival organiser, Dougie Dudgeon, “The South African Recovery Film Festival encourages those in Recovery to come together as active members of their communities, as role models and credible messengers of hope. We believe Recovery needs to be celebrated, and addiction needs to be understood, so we welcome those in recovery, family, friends, health care professionals, carers of all types, policy makers, law enforcement, and most of all anyone who likes good films!”

South Africa is in the grip of some devastating socioeconomic challenges including poverty and homelessness and rampant violent crime.  Almost invariably these are interlaced with substance abuse and addiction.  That is the visible face of the addiction pandemic, but there is an invisible aspect too. Dependency disorders hidden behind a mask of normalcy and upward mobility.  Individuals teetering on the edge, families ripped apart, relationships redefined. The Recovery Film Festival draws a spotlight on these challenges, raising our awareness and taking us behind the mask.

“More importantly the Festival highlights the heroic path to recovery that many have chosen – a pathway that was only faintly visible to them from within the darkness of their dependency”, says SACAP’s Chief Executive, Lance Katz. “These are not the actions of super-human Olympians but rather ordinary men and woman who courageously chose life instead of death.  This is the most empowering message of the Festival.  That recovery is not the preserve of a few elite but a possibility for all addiction sufferers”.

The Festival opening night on Thursday, 22 September will be the South African premier of (DIS) Honesty – The Truth About Lies, a film about the ambivalent culture of truth. In recovery honesty is seen as a foundation stone, but what about everyone else? The showing of the documentary will be followed with a Q&A looking at the South African context of issues raised, and the concept of personal honesty.

All the documentaries in the line-up are showing in South Africa for the first time. To see the full programme, visit

Tickets are available from Webtickets ( and cost R50 per ticket.

Festival Line-Up

(DIS) Honesty: The Truth About Lies (USA 2015 1hr 30m)

A film exploring the fascinating psychology of how and why people lie. Featuring the experiments of Behavioural scientist, and international best selling writer Prof. Dan Ariely that measure our propensity to lie – sometimes even unknowingly, on a personal level, from little white lies to devastating deceits, people share on camera the true stories of lies they’ve told – and the consequences they have experienced. Experts examine with sensitivity, and humour, the reasons behind our behaviour and the implications of our dishonesty. Recovery, we are told, is based on honesty, so how can we save ourselves from the traps everyone seems to fall for?

Kingdom Of Shadows (Mexico/USA 2015 1hr 15m)

Taking an unflinching look at the hard choices and destructive consequences of the U.S.-Mexico “drug war,” and the result of policies followed throughout the West. The Film weaves together the stories of a U.S. drug enforcement agent, an activist nun in violence-scarred, Mexico, and a former Texas smuggler, revealing the human side of an often misunderstood conflict that has resulted in a growing human-rights crisis that only recently has made international headlines.

Telling the story of the human impact of drug policies, Kingdom of Shadows is a film that touches people enabling a different kind of thinking. Producers Participant Media, whose documentary track record includes Oscar®-winners Citizenfour and An Inconvenient Truth encouraged an approach unlike a conventional talking-heads documentary, Kingdom of Shadows elegant camera work and wide-framed shots create the look and feel of a feature film driving a compelling true life story.

My Name Is…… (UK 2016 1hr)

Alcohol is society’s great leveller – alcoholism doesn’t care about where we come from, where we live, or how successful we are. My Name is… And I’m an Alcoholic tells the frank story of 8 people and their tempestuous relationship with alcohol: from their first drink, their love affair with booze and their despair as they hit rock bottom – to what it took to get sober as they built a new life in recovery.

Avoiding societies alcoholic stereotypes the subjects include a professional cellist, too stressed to play on stage without a bottle of vodka; the former Editor of The Sun, too anxious to run Britain’s biggest newspaper without drinking; a single mother, drinking through her loneliness and her shame at her failed marriage; a criminal who became alcoholic aged 13, grieving the loss of his mother; a GP drinking to escape the problems of her patients, and a student counsellor who relapsed just days before filming.

As much a story of the struggle as it is one of hope, this sensitive and resonant film takes us straight into the heart of one of society’s most prevalent and misunderstood addictions.

The Adventures Of Dr Crackhead (Canada 2013 1hr 26m)

Following controversial author and research scientist Dr. Peter Ferentzy on a lecture tour advocating for greater compassion toward addicts this thought provoking film asks difficult questions about societies approach to addiction. Ferentzy is a fascinating figure when he is speaking deep truths about addiction and treatments. However, is he engaged in an elaborate act of self-deception to justify his own relapses? (one of which occurs during the filming). How can we find the line between supporting and enabling an addict? Does that line even exist? Is Dr Crackhead the wrong man with the right message? Featuring interviews with supporters and detractors this film creates a real opportunity to talk openly and freely about addiction and recovery.

Call Me Lucky (USA 2015 1hr 46m)

A challenging film looking at the issues raised by sex abuse, Call Me Lucky is the inspiring, triumphant and wickedly funny portrait of one of comedy’s most enigmatic and important figures: Barry Crimmins. A controversial and politically outspoken whip-smart comic whose efforts in the ‘70s and ‘80s fostered the talents of the next generation of stand-up comedians. But beneath Crimmins’ gruff, hard-drinking, curmudgeonly persona lay an undercurrent of rage stemming from his long-suppressed and horrific abuse as a child – a rage that eventually found its way out of the comedy clubs and television shows and into the political arena. As a survivor of abuse Crimmins found his unique path to recovery by not only noisily challenging government and internet corporations, but also quietly, being there for others, walking with them on their own journeys. Crimmins pulls no punches in his quest to hold us all accountable for the world we share.

My Name Was Bette (USA 2011 1hr)

The film chronicles the progression of alcoholism in the life of Bette VandenAkker – a nurse, wife, and mother – who died of the disease in 2007. A sometimes shocking, always moving account of women’s alcoholism by film makers Sherri VandenAkker – Bette’s daughter – and Josh Hays, uses interviews, family archive, medical records, court documents and graphics which provide a personal, detailed look at the physical, emotional and mental toll of alcoholism. The film offers a sense of both reflection on, and hope for those affected by the disease seeking to heal their pain and damaged relationships.

Almost Holy (Ukraine/USA 2016 1hr 40m)

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s social institutions crumbled under corrupt governments and a decaying infrastructure. Many of the nation’s youth succumbed to drug addiction and alcoholism while losing their homes. A Ukranian pastor, Gennadiy Mokhnenko took matters into his own hands, forcibly removing children from the streets or unsuitable homes and taking them to his rehab and housing facility, Pilgrim Republic.

The film follows Mokhnenko’s unorthodox and controversial quest over the course of the last 15 years, as some of his wards thrive and some expire, offering a frightening glimpse into a world where few care about the decline of their so-called lesser citizens. Yet, Almost Holy (executive produced by Terrence Malick) offers a surprisingly uplifting worldview.

Ruben Guthrie (Australia 2015 1hr 33m) – Feature Film

Life is good for ad man Ruben Guthrie – he leads a party boy lifestyle, has a model fiancée and lives in a house on the water. He’s at the top of his game, until some drunken skylarking lands Ruben at the bottom of his infinity pool, lucky to be alive. His mum hits the panic button, and then his fiancée leaves him, but not before issuing him one final challenge: If Ruben can do one year without a drink, she’ll give him another chance… RUBEN GUTHRIE is the story of one man not only battling the bottle, but the city that won’t let him put it down.

Stones (UK/South Africa 2016 1hr 40m) – Feature Film

Stones was Awarded best UK feature at London Independent Film Festival. Based on true events first time SA Director Roydon Turner, STONES tells the story of Alex a talented singer/songwriter blighted by alcoholism. Out of work, out of the house and sleeping rough. Is Alex out of chances – or can he get sober, start writing again and find the opportunities that life is offering?

Stones is a true life story based on the experiences of singer Alexander McKay.

Louis Theroux Drinking To Oblivion (UK 2016 1hr) – FREE SCREENING

What happens when drinking loses it’s social aspect and becomes a potentially fatal compulsion. In this acclaimed and ultimately uplifting film, determined to understand, respected documentary maker Louis Theroux immerses himself in the lives of patients at a London hospital detox unit who are in the grips of alcohol addiction, drinking to the point of self destruction. With the help of the medical staff Louis explores the effect drinking is having on the patients lives and the consequences for themselves and their loved ones. To those who have never struggled with substances it is hard to comprehend why people become addicted, indeed many associate addiction only with illegal substances and are unaware that alcohol is the most common addiction problem worldwide. Louis spends time with the addicts and their families as they search for a way out of their problem before it’s too late.

Generation Found (USA 2016)

From the creators of the groundbreaking film, THE ANONYMOUS PEOPLE, comes GENERATION FOUND, a powerful story about one community coming together to ignite a youth addiction recovery revolution in their hometown. Devastated by an epidemic of addiction, Houston faced the reality of burying and locking up its young people at an alarming rate. And so in one of the largest cities in America, visionary counselors, law school dropouts, aspiring rock musicians, retired football players, oil industry executives, and church leaders came together to build the world’s largest peer-driven youth and family recovery community.

Independently filmed over the course of two years, GENERATION FOUND takes an unprecedented and intimate look at how a system of treatment centers, sober high schools, alternative peer groups, and collegiate recovery programs can exist in concert to intervene early and provide a real and tested long-term alternative to the “War on Drugs.” It is not only a deeply personal story, but one with real-world utility for communities struggling with addiction worldwide.

Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (USA 2015, 1hr 44m)

Oscar nominated Amy J.Berg (West Of Memphis) presents a stunning, insightful portrait of the original “rock Chick” Janis Joplin featuring wonderful archival footage, performances, contemporary interviews and Janis’s personal correspondence. Joplin’s ferociously soulful voice and stage presence helped her break into the male dominated rock music scene of the late 60s, but her personal battle with her inner demons and addictions tragically robbed the world of a great talent far too soon. Produced by Oscar winner Alex Gibney and narrated by Chan Marshall (of Cat Power) Little Girl Blue is a powerful and meaningful tribute to a rock’n’roll legend charting her musical rise in the 1960s to her battle with alcohol and heroin addiction.

Secret World Of Recovery (USA 2015 45m)

More people are offering hope by telling their stories openly, speaking out to end discrimination and stigma fueled by stereotypes, challenging public policies and organizing to build supportive communities there are exciting new tools and voices available to address misconceptions. The Secret World of Recovery is one of those.  In a unique, pragmatic approach to addressing one of the world’s leading public health problems–addiction to alcohol and other drugs, the story of real people in The Secret World of Recovery directly engages families, friends and neighbors, as well as policymakers and the media, in a much-needed dialogue. This documentary offers a framework for wider discussions to bring new understanding, create demand for improved policies, and help families and communities to heal.


This year the Festival is offering audiences “another chance to see” 3 of last years Festival favourites.

Addicts Symphony won last years audience award and the organisers have had repeated requests to show the film again.

No Time To Think has been included as both clinics and media outlets continue to raise the issue of technology addiction.

Back From The Edge, came second in audience choice last year and health practitioners in particular singled it out as one of the most useful films screened last year.

No Time To Think

Back From The Edge Trailer Not Available

Addicts Symphony


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