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Mental Notes earns critical and community acclaim

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With one last Auckland screening this Sunday, NZ documentary Mental Notes has already earned acclaim and audiences ahead of further festival screenings in Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch.

About the secret, often shameful history of New Zealand's psychiatric hospitals, Mental Notes' 31 March world premiere in Auckland as part of the World Cinema Showcase was sold out, while audiences for the screenings since have been strong and tickets for Sunday's 4pm session at the Bridgeway Cinema are in hot demand.

The film's audience appeal is reflected in the enthusiastic notices it's receiving, from both reviewers and members of New Zealand's mental health community.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Judi Clements endorses Mental Notes as a reminder "of an era that to a large extent has passed but should not be forgotten" and an illustration of how "practices that may be appropriate, or even seen as good practice, in professional terms in one era may be regarded as totally unacceptable, or even brutal, in the next".

"Not only does Mental Notes shine a light on an important part of our national history," agrees Miriam Larsen-Barr, a mental health promoter from Mind and Body Consultants, "it also shines a light on our infinite capacity as human beings to endure extraordinary circumstances and go on to thrive in life."

Toi Ora Live Art Trust manager Erwin van Asbeck describes the film as "both an intensely personal and humanely inspirational documentary".

Taimi Allan, reTHiNK producer/director, says Mental Notes "dissolves the gap between the 'normal' people and those committed to an asylum ? This film is a must-see for anyone who still believes people with an experience of mental illness should be locked away 'for their own good'."

Meanwhile, Dominion Post and Radio New Zealand, National film reviewer Graeme Tuckett recommends Mental Notes as "a stunning film: moving, funny, and - even though I hate this word - important. Go and see it."

In the NZ Herald, Peter Calder has praised the film for its "measured, unsensationalist tone and its focus on the survivors rather than the historical horrors", noting that "it's not simply a catalogue of victimhood; its subjects' stories are full of humour and hope"; while according to Onfilm's Helen Martin, "This is a film that will resonate with so many New Zealanders."

"I'm really gratified with the response to the film so far," says Mental Notes' director Jim Marbrook, who spent three years making the film. "It was very important to me that it was embraced by those working in the mental health community and people whose lives have been touched by mental illness. Ultimately, though, the goal was to make a film that didn't just appeal to a specialised audience, so it's fantastic Mental Notes is proving to have universal appeal.

"In many respects it feels like this is a story whose time has come. After the last Auckland screening on Sunday, I'm really looking forward to taking the film to the other main centres and sharing it with more New Zealanders."

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