Musician Catherine MacLellan—the daughter of Canadian singer/songwriting legend Gene MacLellan—grew up surrounded by her father’s music. He died by suicide when she was 14. Two decades after his loss, Catherine is finally ready to confront the hurtful mystery of her absent parent and embrace his musical legacy.
The Song and the Sorrow follows Catherine as she journeys to understand her father and face her own struggles with mental illness. Through archival footage and intimate interviews with friends, family members, and musicians who knew and played with Gene—including Anne Murray, Lennie Gallant, and the late Ron Hynes—the film reveals a troubled and loving man who was never at ease with fame or money.
Catherine is determined to lift the oppressive burden of silence that accompanies the stigma of mental illness and hopes that others can take strength and solace from her story.
This documentary looks at how children deal with a parent who has died by suicide. Meet 3 people who lost their fathers to suicide at an early age but learned the truth much later, after years of confusion, grief and guilt. In French with English subtitles.
TRIGGER WARNING: This film contains the following subject matter: Suicide and self harm.
If you are affected by the topics addressed in the film, we encourage you to reach out to someone you trust.
If you’re in need of crisis support, please visit Crisis Services Canada
Shannon Amen unearths the passionate and pained expressions of a young woman overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety as she struggles to reconcile her sexual identity with her religious faith. A loving elegy to a friend lost to suicide.
When death haunts a high school in a small town in the late 1990s, everyone is forever transformed. In this gentle, prismatic film, Samara returns to the town she fled as a teen to re-immerse herself in the memories still lurking there, in its spaces and within the dusty boxes of diaries, photos and VHS tapes. 1999 is not a ghost story, but the ghosts are palpable at every turn. The snow-covered streets, the school’s hallways and lockers are preserved as in a dream. The absences left by the relentless teenage suicides still shimmer with questions, trauma and regret. Samara encounters people who are as breathtaking as they are heartbroken, and, finally, 16 years later, the community strengthens itself by sharing the long-silenced memories. Ultimately the film weaves together multiple voices in a collective essay on how grief is internalized—and how, as children, we so painfully learn to articulate our desire to stay alive.
This feature documentary presents a thoughtful and vivid portrait of a community facing imposed relocation. At the centre of the story is a remarkably astute and luminous 12-year-old black girl whose poignant observations about life, the soul, and the power of art give voice to those rarely heard in society. Unarmed Verses is a cinematic rendering of our universal need for self-expression and belonging.
In this feature documentary-musical by Chelsea McMullan, indie singer Rae Spoon takes us on a playful, meditative and at times melancholic journey. Set against majestic images of the infinite expanses of the Canadian Prairies, the film features Spoon crooning about their queer and musical coming of age. Interviews, performances and music sequences reveal Spoon’s inspiring process of building a life of their own, as a trans person and as a musician.
Official selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
This feature documentary tells the story of 2 teens who head out west in search of self. Like a quarter of Vancouver’s itinerant youth population, Mélo and Ti-criss made the trip from Quebec, hopeful for a better life. Still minors, the pair seeks escape and adventure, perhaps the meaning of life. From east to west, from the streets to a hotel, with a welcome interlude in the country, they seek their place in society.
This feature documentary profiles four residents of the Brockville Mental Health Centre, a forensic psychiatric hospital for people who have committed violent crimes. Four patients—two men and two women—struggle to gain control over their lives so they can return to a society that often fears and demonizes them. Shrouded in stigma, institutions like this one are places into which patients disappear from public view for years.
Four-time Emmy winner John Kastner was granted unprecedented access to the Brockville facility for 18 months, allowing 46 patients and 75 staff to share their experiences with stunning frankness.
For more background information on this film, please visit the NFB.ca blog.
This short drama tells the story of Andy Potter, a successful lawyer torn between 2 worlds - the world of reality and that of his own dreams and ambitions. With a loving wife, many supportive friends and a great career, there was no apparent reason for him to wish to end his life. Yet and still, one by one, the symptoms of schizophrenia took their toll.
With a meticulous selection of interviews, performances and photos drawn from a vast and rich archival collection, Pauline Julien, Intimate and Political follows the iconic Quebec singer and eternally free spirit on a journey through key moments in the province’s history.
This feature-length documentary is a dynamic kaleidoscopic portrait of Socalled (aka Josh Dolgin), a multi-disciplinary musician and artist whose unique blend of klezmer, hip hop and funk is blasting through the boundaries that separate music of different cultures, eras and generations.
Socalled is unstoppable: a pianist, singer, arranger, rapper, producer and composer – as well as magician, filmmaker and visual artist. The "Socalled" Movie offers a nuanced picture of an individual who's artistically fearless.
When Phillip Wong died by suicide, his family thought that silence would end their pain. But his sister, filmmaker Michelle Wong, needed to make sense of her brother's death. What drove him to end his life at age 36?
Weaving together intimate conversations with those closest to Phillip, as well as her own candid reflections, Wong embarks on a personal journey. Gently peeling away layers of silence, she uncovers her brother's story of gambling addiction and his lonely spiral into desperation, isolation and depression.
Filmed against the backdrop of the noisy casinos of Las Vegas and the quiet town of St. Paul, Alberta, the documentary lays bare the grief of family and friends. Sifting through feelings of guilt, sadness and shame, the once-fragmented family begins to discover a new closeness. This heart-wrenching film is a sister's uncompromising search for the truth and healing--for herself, her family, and others struggling with addiction.
Ages 15 to 18
English Language Arts - CanLit
Health/Personal Development - Mental Health/Stress/Suicide
Media Education - Documentary Film
Warnings: Sensitive content (discussion of suicide).
An exploration of the life and death of musician Gene MacLellan by his daughter includes the impact of his suicide on her, and interviews with friends and family. Ideal for discussions of mental health and suicide. The stigma surrounding mental illness and depression often pushes those who live with it, including their friends and family, into silence. Why do you think Catherine MacLellan decided to tell her father’s story, as well as her own? As a class, discuss why it is recommended to speak about one’s personal challenges and struggles to friends, family or a health care professional. Why might people be afraid to speak about difficult personal matters? After viewing, research resources available for mental health and suicide prevention available locally and nationally.