First of all, congratulations on another successful festival! I can’t even imagine how much work goes into anything of this magnitude and I’m sure it’s involved many sleepless nights and stressful days. I know that you’re busy but I wanted to make sure that I sent you a message. We don’t know each other and, other than a couple of tags on Twitter, we’ve never spoken. What’s more, this is hardly the type of posting we place on our site but I wanted to make sure you had the chance to read it. Sometimes, you have to write to get things out–oddly, that seems to have been a theme in several of the films I’ve been watching this year–so I wanted to reach out to you.
I wanted to say thank you.
Not just for the festival or all your hard work, though that is well-deserved. (I’ve been a TIFF member and attendee for almost 10 years now and, every year, you and your team pull off a superhuman feat by managing an event of this scale.) Each year, you assemble films that challenge, inspire and reframe worldviews… but this year, you brought in one specific film that made such an indelible mark on my soul that I felt the need to attempt to reach out to you.
Last Saturday, myself, my wife and two dear friends attended A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.
First, a little bit of backstory. In the briefest of descriptions of my own journey, I have been a pastor for 20 years. Over the past two decades, I have worked with children and youth from our church’s neighbourhood, challenging them to live lives that matter and can help change the world. In recent years, co-founded a website (ScreenFish.net) designed specifically to engage the voices of our culture through film. Like TIFF, I too am passionate about exploring the ideas and themes that matter to others and exploring how they shape our current cultural narrative and connect with my own faith.
In recent years, however, things have taken a turn. As Lloyd asked Rogers in the film about burdens, my own ministry has faced incredibly difficult challenges, both personal and professional. As a result, over the last 18 months, I have been dealing with severe depression and panic attacks as a result of deeply rooted anger and hurt in my own soul. While I have been in therapy for over a year, the last few months have been extremely difficult on my wife, children and I and, as a result, I recently left my place of ministry due to mental health issues. (It would not be out of place to admit that there were moments of severe darkness, which remains out of character for me.) The purpose for my leave of absence was to begin with a time of sabbatical where I could begin to seek God for rays of light and hope for myself as we move into the next phase of our journey.
Then, as I said, we came to the premiere last weekend.
While I have been challenged and refreshed from a number of films at the Fest this year–this was my 6th film of 11 total for 2019–Beautiful Day is the one that has left the greatest mark on my soul. To sit in the theatre and experience Lloyd’s journey wasn’t merely just a great film, it was a moment of light and hope for me. Although forgiveness and grace aren’t exactly new themes for any film, this particular film presented itself in such a genuine and earnest manner that I found it a significant step towards my own healing. I believe the film speaks of forgiveness as “choosing to release our anger against another person” and, for me, that was a powerful moment of clarity. The fact that Mr. Ha… er… Rogers speaks to Lloyd to remind him that he isn’t broken and encourages him to ponder those who have loved him along the way is such a profound truth that is rarely spoken within our world. In short, it was another piece of my own healing experience. To take pause and reflect on truths like these (and more) in a film like this was a beacon of light in this tired and weary soul.
In short, I wanted to thank you for, not only all your hard work, but also bringing this particular film to the Festival of Festivals (#throwback). It should be noted that I do not expect a response to this letter nor am I asking for anything in return. You may share it with whomever you believe it might be an encouragement if you wish (or not). As I stated earlier, TIFF is designed to challenge the world through ideas of all types on a grand scale. However, I felt it was important for you to hear that films like this also offer hope and healing on a personal level as well.
So, thank you Cameron. To you and your team.
Thanks to you all, today will be a beautiful day in my neighbourhood.