The Cape Town Recovery Film Festival returns for its 5th 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.

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 and other mental health problems. It is part of the International Recovery Month initiative, which sees thousands of inspirational 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 and the prevalence of stress, depression and other mental health issues across society are hard to deny. 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 Recovery Film Festival is proud to be part of International Recovery Month, to work with SACAP to bring this vital resource to life in Cape Town and Johannesburg. In the Mother City, we have once again invited the Recovery Walk Cape Town participants to finish their annual event with us at The Labia on the 25th of September as we believe in the importance of celebrating Recovery. The Recovery Film Festival can help people understand addiction, and recovery, 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!”

With rising addiction, substance abuse and mental health issues tearing the social fabric of our South African communities and families, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

“The Recovery Film Festival serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration,” says SACAP CEO, Lance Katz, “It is an important reminder that there are brave warriors meeting these devastating social challenges and constructively confronting them head-on with a range of game-changing projects and initiatives. Recovery is not the preserve of an elite few; it is a possibility for everyone battling with addiction and mental health problems.

The Festival raises critical awareness of the enormous personal and social price that is paid. In line with SACAP’s own mandate to act as a catalyst for positive social change through improving mental health awareness and service delivery in South Africa, the Festival powerfully motivates for the mobilizing of sufficient mental health care resources to address the causes of the problems and provide sustainable solutions.”

The Recovery Film Festival highlights the heroic path to recovery that many have chosen – hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

The Festival opens with multi-award winner The Peacemaker, the films subject Professor Padraig O’Malley has strong links with South Africa, and famously brought both sides in the Irish peace process to Arniston in the Western Cape to a conference hosted by Nelson Mandela in the lead up to the historic Good Friday Agreement which finally brought peace and reconciliation to Northern Ireland.

Prof O’Malley was a long term alcoholic who established his recovery in South Africa and used the tools he learnt for personal recovery into his international peacekeeping work.


1. The Peacemaker

THE PEACEMAKER follows international peacemaker Padraig O’Malley, who helps make peace for others but has struggled to find it for himself. His approach to his peace work is based on his recovery from addiction.

Filmed over five years, the film takes us from Padraig’s isolated life in Cambridge, Massachusetts to some of the most dangerous crisis zones on Earth – from Northern Ireland to Kosovo, Nigeria to Iraq, as well as the darkest personal spaces of Padraig’s alcoholism.

Padraig finds a path to personal recovery whilst living in South Africa, and now in the third act of his life is in a race against time to find some kind of salvation for both the world, and himself.

2. Healing Voices

A new feature length film exploring the experiences, commonly labeled as “psychosis” or “mental illness”, through real-life stories of individuals working to overcome extreme mental states whilst integrating their experiences into their lives.

At times harrowing, joyful, complex and controversial the film challenges us to rethink our cultural understandings of mental illness through a message of recovery.

3. Julian Leff: Unravelling Schizophrenia

Directed and edited by his son Adriel, this feature length documentary retrospective of Professor Julian Leff’s esteemed career in social psychiatry examines the path that eventually led him to his recent groundbreaking work in the fascinating field of Avatar Therapy, which utilises cutting edge technology to provide the most radical and effective new treatment for schizophrenia in decades.

In doing so, the film delineates the evolution of the psychiatric fraternity’s approach to, and shifting perception of, this most severe and perplexing of mental illnesses both in Britain and across the world, changes that have frequently been instigated by studies spearheaded by Professor Leff himself.

Julian Leff is Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry and University College London, and is recognised as the inventor of Avatar Therapy. He recently received the Pelicier lifetime award for outstanding contributions to Social Psychiatry from the World Psychiatric Association.

4. Gambling, Addiction and Me

Star of The Real Hustle, Alexis Conran is definitely someone you don’t want to be playing cards with. An expert poker player and a man thoroughly at home in a casino, but what for Alexis is a pleasurable pastime, ruined his father’s life.

His father was a gambling addict who committed fraud to get money for betting and went to prison for his crimes.
Exploring the tipping point that turns the odd flutter into something darker and more dangerous, the film explores why most people can place one bet and walk away, whilst some are compelled to lose their shirt, their house and their families.

Filmed all aroun d Britain, Greece and in Las Vegas, Alexis meets gambling addicts, experts and members of his own family to try and understand what can make gambling a compulsion that ends in ruin.

5. Brought Up By Booze

Calum Best is the son of one of the greatest footballers of all time, George Best. He is also the son of an alcoholic.
In this intimate and challenging film, Calum confronts the harsh realities of growing up with an alcoholic parent. Meeting some of the 1.3 million children who are growing up with a parent that abuses alcohol, and sharing with them intimate tales of his own upbringing, he begins to accept that his life continues to be affected even now by his father’s drinking.

The film takes Calum across the UK to meet young people who share stories of chaos and neglect, but also inspirational stories of determination not to end up like their parents.

What does George’s addiction mean for Calum’s future and will he ever understand the illness that killed his father? In this raw and often distressing journey of a son still reaching for his dad, we see firsthand the devastating effect that drink can have on alcoholics’ children.

6. Hitler’s Hidden Drug Habit

Based on a US intelligence dossier and the medical diaries and journals of Hitler’s personal physician, this documentary sheds new light on his health and extraordinary medicinal regime during the Second World War. Dr Theodor Morell’s records, which have been locked away since 1945, are a unique source of information.

They reveal that, far from being a picture of robust health, the Fuehrer was a nervy hypochondriac, and chart in great detail his descent into illness and drug dependency.

7. A New High

An inspiring documentary following ex-Army Ranger Mike Johnson, who enriches the lives of a group of recovering addicts at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission by encouraging them to join him on a mission of personal discovery and redemption–climbing to the 14,400-foot summit of Mt. Rainier.

8. ASK

ASK is an exploration of alcoholism, drug addiction, and codependency. The difficulties and heartaches of family and loved ones who don’t know what to do, and above all else want to help, to be kind can lead to addiction growing even more in the family unit. With compassionately shot interviews with addicts, family members and health care professionals – this film both explains, and offers hope to families and individuals caught up in alcoholism, addiction and co-dependency.

– Adapted from press release

Categories: Entertainment