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Celina Clarke, Steve Kasan, Jack Rennie, Sarah Swire and Justine McCloskey star in Eve Parade, a new mental-health short film screening from Toronto filmmaker Rebeccah Love aiming to bridge gap between audiences and mental-health institutions.Nikolay Michaylov/Handout

The last time that I checked in with Rebeccah Love, one of the more exciting Canadian short filmmakers working today, her message was simple: “Focus on community above all things.” Between 2018 and now, though, the idea of community – as in the communal enjoyment of watching a film together – took a thrashing. But now Love is back in full community-organizing mode with the long-awaited (at least in certain Toronto cinema circles) premiere of her new short, Eve Parade.

The 20-minute drama, which chronicles one young woman (played by regular Love collaborator Sarah Swire) and her descent into mania, is a deeply moving portrait of what happens when a community actually cares – when neighbours stop being familiar faces and start to become members of a genuine support system. Eve Parade also serves as a capstone of sorts for Love, continuing mental-health themes and even characters developed in her previous films Ripe, Parlour Palm and A Woman’s Block – all of which will be screened alongside Eve Parade April 16 at the Paradise Theatre in Toronto.

Ahead of the event, Love spoke with The Globe and Mail about the intersections between art and outreach.

Your films all touch on mental health, specifically when a young woman cannot receive the support that she needs. How much is pulled from your own life experiences?

After graduating high school, I had every intention of becoming a lawyer like my father. But I got very sick after my first year of university, experiencing mania and psychosis. It was an enormous challenge, but my illness made me realize that I wanted to make movies for a living. I had a stretch of four years when I was in and out of hospitals, but afterward I registered at Ryerson for film school, and by the time I was 21, I felt like I had gained control of my illness.

Your work started off in a more conventional approach, though. I’m thinking about your rom-com Acres, from 2018.

It was a very Nicholas Sparks style story, yeah, but making it, I realized I wanted to dig into my own history, my own struggles, which would create a more compelling narrative. When I was 18 and struggling with my condition, I needed desperately to hear the story of a filmmaker who went through what I was going through. I didn’t have that, and felt quite alienated, isolated, scared. Now at 31, I haven’t been hospitalized for 10 years, so my priority is to be that person I was looking for back then. To reassure people who are struggling that it can be controlled, and even turned into art and storytelling.

“Film what you know” is one approach to storytelling, but it can cut both ways. How challenging is it for you to put your own struggles out into the world?

On the one hand, it comes naturally – there’s that therapeutic aspect to it, where it’s liberating and cathartic. But there are professional and personal repercussions, too. There could be employers who don’t want to hire you. People who you go on dates with that are terrified about your history. It’s beautiful, exciting, terrifying. But it’s worth it in the end.

Your films have a real focus on community. But it must have been difficult missing that community, for the most part, over the past two years.

Community is a big part of my life and practice, so it has been incredibly difficult. But I premiered my last film Parlour Palm over Zoom, and invited a number of psychiatrists to give talks during the event. So it can happen.

You’re having Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, physician-in-chief at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, speak at the Eve Parade screening. How important is it to have outside, expert voices to complement your work?

It’s a controversial move for a community whose members have faced abuse in psychiatric institutions. But I’m fascinated by the way that psychiatrists think, and I love the idea of building bridges between creative and medical communities. We both have a lot to say to one another. Like my work with TIFF’s outreach program, where I showed films in places like CAMH, it’s all about creating a dialogue.

Eve Parade premieres April 16 at the Paradise Theatre in Toronto

This interview has been condensed and edited

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