Filmmaker and friend Karina Garcia Casanova has been working on a documentary about her family for over ten years, culminating in the documentary Juanicas which recently premiered at les Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal. What initially started out as a university project, over many years evolved into a intimate portrayal of her mother and brother’s struggles with mental illness. As her brother’s situation worsens, Karina struggles to make sense of their situation, within the broader context of our flawed health care and correctional systems.

Working closely with Karina and the production team at EyeSteelFilm, I created an editorial strategy in line with the film’s very personal approach to issues such as mental illness, suicide and immigration. We also collaborated on the creation of marketing tools such as the Juanicas web presence, social media tools, poster and flyers.

The film has been very well received since its international premiere in Montreal, winning two special mentions at RIDM for Student Jury Award, as well as Best New Talent from Quebec/Canada. We are continuing our outreach to festivals and community groups across North-America, with the objective of reaching the many individuals and families who struggle with the challenges of mental illness and immigration on a daily basis.

This topics raised in the film feel especially relevant, as depression and suicide rates seem to be on the rise in Canada, according to recent studies. The film also struck a personal chord with me, not only as Karina’s friend, but as someone who has struggled with self-worth and depression for years. While my condition has never been as severe as that of Juan or Victoria, I admire Karina’s courage and strength to create such a moving and personal narrative in the face of an overwhelmingly difficult situation. The era of brushing mental illness aside, on a personal and institutional level, as something to “get over” or ignore must come to an end.