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A poetic, performative, experimental documentary that gives voice to people with lived experience of mental health issues. The Documentary explores how practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on mental health and assist in the journey of recovery after experiencing a complex mental health issue.

Excitingly in April, Bus Stop Films rolled out a 10 week documentary studies program involving 9 individuals who are on a path to recovery following a diagnosis of mental illness. Funded by 3 Bridges Community through their Partners in Recovery (PIR) program, students joined the Bus Stop documentary studies workshops to engage in an accessible ‘film school experience’. This unique experience allowed these students to participate in an inclusive program without the barriers mainstream classes often present in the early stages of recovery.  Students learned about the six modes of documentary, a brief history of the form and worked together to create a performative, poetic documentary that voiced their experiences about living with mental health issues.

The 10 week program was broken down into theory and practical lessons, and engaged various drama games to help communicate content. Class would usually start with a quick warm up of theatre sports to get the creative juices flowing before the days’ learning begun. Then it would be straight onto the lesson where students would learn various filmmaking techniques – even getting the chance to operate camera equipment.

After spending many classes learning about various documentary modes and researching subjects to explore through documentary form, the class decided that they wanted to voice their experiences about what it was like living with a mental health condition. They decided to create a participatory, poetic documentary expressing the thesis that; exercising the quality of gratitude was an important step in the road to recovery. The film, aptly titled “Gratus”, would be aimed at helping audiences to not only understand the experience of people living with a mental health condition, but also represent how gratitude can have a positive impact on the journey of recovery to living a happy and healthy life.

This collaborative experience had some students chose to perform in the documentary, some contributed through creating poetry and others conjured up symbolic imagery to incorporate into the film.

To read a full account of the project, check out our blog Gratus for the Memories!