Screening addiction

Patricia de Lille.

For the first time since the inception of the festival, the City of Cape Town showed its support at the opening night of the annual South African Recovery Film Festival, with mayor Mayor Patricia de Lille attending the first event, held at the Labia Theater on Thursday September 22.

At the event, Ms de Lille said: “I try to get to all the events and this year is my first year at this initiative. I just want to support and celebrate the people who have recovered from addiction. There is so much good work being done in the City.”

The Recovery Film Festival, which ran until Sunday September 25, aimed to celebrate recovery from addiction.

At the opening night of the festival, which saw the screening of documentaries exploring themes of addiction, mental health issues and recovery, organiser, Dougie Dudgeon, said he was grateful for the City’s recognition of the recovery community. That night Ms De Lille stayed for the screening of (Dis)Honesty The truth about Lies, a documentary film about the “ambivalent culture of truth”.

All the films screened at the festival, which included King of Shadows, Drinking to Oblivion, Secret Life of Recovery and Janis Joplin, were screened in South Africa for the first time.

Ashley Potts of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC), who has been supporting the Recovery Film Festival since it started four years ago, said that one of the big differences at the fest this year was the fact that the City came out in support of the cause, and it was very significant to have the mayor there.

Mr Dudgeon told the CapeTowner he was delighted at the fact that the City had showed interest in the festival this year, and highlighted that often the solutions to the city’s drug addiction problem were ignored

“We should focus on the fact that there are solutions, and the City’s support plays a big role in that,” he said, adding that the festival had sparked debates and reached more people than it had it the past.

He said more than 300 people had accompanied them on the Recovery Walk on Saturday September 24. This is the second time that the walk, which which starts at the Labia and continues through the city centre and aims to celebrate people who have recovered from addiction, formed part of the Recovery Festival.

“We found that we had many more people who were not from the recovery community attending the movie screenings and the Recovery Walk, and engaging in the conversations. “We also had more media coverage and online presence. We had a lot more support,” Mr Dudgeon said.

Mr Potts added that many more stakeholders in the counselling and recovery sector had come out to the screenings as well.

“I have received emails from a lot of organisations asking how we can continue a collaborative effort to create awareness and support addiction and recovery,” he said.

At the festival, he added,, there had been a lot of debate as to “what we are doing wrong” when it comes to combating addiction.

The CTDCC was also chosen as the beneficiary of R5 of each ticket sold. The tickets cost R50 each.

Although the numbers the final figures were not yet available by the time this edition went to print, Mr Dudgeon expected that more than R3 500 would be donated to the CTDCC.

An added benefit for the CTDCC, said Mr Potts, was that they had been able to advertise in the Recovery Festival booklets, which saved the organisation almost R5 000 which they might have spent elsewhere on advertising.

“The City supported the event as the festival touches on the very important global topic of addiction and recovery,” said the mayor’s spokesperson, Zara Nicholson. “These are also issues we grapple with on a daily basis in Cape Town.” She said the objectives of the festival ties in with the work and the aims of mayor’s substance abuse campaign, through which the City reaches out to residents who are battling with substance abuse and addiction, offers free help and counselling, and urges communities to work with them to fight the scourge of drug and alcohol addiction.

“The festival and the films highlighted the battles that we come across and showcased many similarities between what we experience in Cape Town and what people in other parts of the world experience. It was very interesting to see how the focus of the festival isn’t just about the conventional addictions or vices (alcohol and drugs) but the festival highlighted all kinds of addictions that people across the world deal with.

“It was an eye-opener to see how many other addictions exist which we don’t necessarily see as addictions.”

She said that, through its Special Events Committee, the City will consider event support requests as they are received.

Mr Potts said he would like the City, professionals and other role players in the sector to start looking at alternative ways to deal with addiction. “It is clear that the current way that we deal with it is not working. We need to sit around a table and discuss alternatives.”

Mr Dudgeon said Prospect Hill Recovery practice in Wynberg will host a monthly film club that will re-screen all the films of the South African Recovery Film Festival. For more information, call the organisation at 021 761 9049, or visit