September 14, 2023 (Sault Ste. Marie, ON). The Shadows of the Mind Film Festival committee has reached the unanimous decision to call it a day making it official that the long running film festival will not be returning in 2024.
Festival director Bill MacPherson speaks for everyone. “While it is sad to declare an end to an event we know many people look forward to, we are all in agreement the time is right. There are a number of critical factors that have made it more and more difficult to produce a festival of the calibre we want. We set the bar high and want to leave on a positive note.”
The committee wishes to be clear on its decision so that our patrons know it was not made lightly. Shadows of the Mind has outlasted all the small film festivals that were launched around the same time in Ontario. It began in the late 1990’s with an idea floated by festival founder Mike O’Shea to local mental health and addicitions colleagues to screen films that would shine a light on mental health and addictions. The first film screened at the Kiwanis Community Theatre Centre on February 10th, 2000 and despite a two year hiatus during the pandemic, Shadows has presented over 530 films and documentaries from around the world to local audiences. Mike O’Shea is in full support of the decision. “ We set out to initiate discussion and compassion through the language of film and succeeded. The festival slogan ‘one movie can change you’, is a good one. I personally have experienced it and watched it in others. They saw a movie and they left, deeply moved.”
While industry challenges such as the immediacy of streaming services, technology, and rising costs of films and cinema rentals contribute to the decision to dissolve, the primary factor is an aging team of volunteers who are ready to step down and like many volunteer driven
organizations today, Shadows of the Mind does not have a succession plan.
MacPherson knows this all too well, having served as festival programmer for the past 15 years. “Film selection, acquisitions and festival planning takes months of preparation and it’s a skill set that requires practice and acquired knowledge”, Bill explains. “We were so fortunate that the core group worked together so well for so long, each person bringing a certain strength, with everyone willing to take responsibility.”
As a non-profit organization Shadows of the Mind concludes in good standing financially. In keeping with the Festival’s community focus the dissolution of the non-profit will be conducted over the coming months with festival assets to be dispersed to organizations in the mental health, addictions and social service sectors.
Plans are also in the works for a farewell movie night to officially mark the end of the festival. The tentative date for the last movie showing is Friday April 12th. Details will be shared when they become available.
“Everyone is in agreement we need to see one last movie together, to have the chance to welcome fellow movie lovers who have made the trek on some very snowy winter days over the years, to acknowledge the many sponsors and community partners that been instrumental in making a film festival of this calibre possible.”
Collectively, the committee sums up the Shadows experience this way: “Everything has a time and a place. We not only set out to entertain but to educate and encourage compassion and understanding of mental health and addictions and ask that each person continues this goal in their own way.”
Sincerely, the Shadows of the Mind Film Festival Committee:
Paul and Marg Hurtubise