Thanks to my friend and fellow publicist, Danielle Iversen, I stepped away from TIFF to learn about the Community Arts & Film Festival taking place Sept. 14 to 22 in Toronto (celebrating its 18th anniversary this year), and the premiere of a special documentary to inform and inspire us all.
Award-winning director Matthew Wagner is thrilled to premiere his latest documentary When Hope Breaks Through, at this year’s Community Arts & Film Festival. Screening takes place at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St East, at 1:30pm Friday Sept. 15th. Tickets are available through: https://am.ticketmaster.com/tolive/commffest2023The feature length doc tells the inspiring story of Mike Shoreman, a disabled paddleboarder who attempts to become the first person with disabilities to cross all five Great Lakes. In 2018 Mike was diagnosed with a neurological condition – Ramsay Hunt syndrome – that left him paralyzed, suffering vertigo, hearing and vision loss which ultimately led to depression and a mental health breakdown. This riveting documentary explores the mental health crisis in Canada and our relationships with our own mental health. The film immerses the audience in Mike’s epic five crossings, encompassing over 300 kilometers of open water paddling accompanied by his dedicated crossings team. These strangers come together to form an inseparable bond as they faced and conquered obstacles from boats breaking down, medical emergencies to hallucinations and everything in between.Director/producer Wagner is a Michigan-based director & cinematographer whose previous documentary “Charro & Steed” has won awards (including Best Director, Best Editing and Best Documentary) at film festivals throughout the Great Lakes region and across the States. He is passionate about telling stories in a way that leaves an emotional impact to inspire change.
Mike Shoreman (www.mikeshoreman.com) is an award-winning mental health and disability advocate, athlete, author and columnist, writing on mental health and disability related issues. When Hope Breaks Through is his story. His work in mental health awareness, promotion, and education is extensive, partnering with national and international mental health organizations. Shoreman became the first person with physical disabilities to cross the 5 Great Lakes in 2022. This endeavor became one of the largest independently-run mental health awareness campaigns for youth in Canada. The efforts of his team have been recognized in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, the Canadian House of Commons and by the Prime Minister of Canada (pictured below). Shoreman is the 2022 recipient of the Marg Starzynski Mental Health Leadership award by the Mood Disorder Society of Canada.The film is screening at many esteemed film festivals such as: Boston Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Soo Film Festival, New Westminster Film Festival, Montreal International Film Festival, Central Alberta Film Festival, Docs Without Borders Film Festival, Canberra International Mental Health Film Festival, Awareness Film Festival, Grand Rapids Film Festival, New York International Film Awards & more.
Q. Mike, how did the idea of crossing the Great Lakes come about?
A. I found myself with a passion and desire to help others who struggle greatly with their mental health. I wanted to do something big that would help raise awareness and funding for the youth mental health crisis in Canada.
Q. What are the themes of the film?
A. Perseverance, Mental Health and Suicide, Adventure, Water Sports, Paddle Boarding, Endurance Sports, Mental and Physical Endurance, Personal Growth, The Kindness of Strangers, The Power of Team, The Raw Determination of Human Strength, The Great Lakes.
Q. Where did the title come from?
A. Anyone who has ever struggled with mental health will be able to relate to a feeling of hopelessness at one time or another. During the crossings, there were moments when Mike experienced hopelessness as he pushed himself to fight through the grueling elements of the great lakes. However, as morning would break and the sun would peek over the horizon, Mike and the team felt as if hope itself was rising in the break of dawn. This rising hope is what we all endeavor to be part of as we raise awareness and shed light on the mental health crisis in Canada.Q. This film is about the mental health crisis, what do you hope this film achieves in its messaging?
A. This film was created by a team of individuals whose lives have all been touched in some capacity by mental health struggles. Because we are so passionate about mental health advocacy, it is our sincere hope that this film reminds audiences they are not alone in their struggles.
1. Start conversations about mental health
2. Keep conversations going about mental health
3. Help remove the stigma of mental health
4. Continue to break down the barriers to adequate mental health care
COMMFFest SCREENING: Friday Sept. 15th @ 1:30 PM
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts – Jane Mallett Theatre – Toronto, ON