Lived Experience

Personal experiences with mental health problems inspired each of these shorts, ranging from animation and experimental film to documentary and drama, part of SMHAF 2021.

Lived Experience

About Lived Experience

Hailing from the UK, North America and Eastern Europe, these films explore how individuals both are affected by and recover from problems including negative body image, borderline personality disorder, and depression, and how the people around them contribute to or help to prevent mental health problems from emerging.

Content notes: alcohol addiction, body image, brief nudity, domestic violence, medication, suicide, strong language, panic attack. These are also listed individually by film.

Watch Lived Experience at INDY On Demand. Screening 10-16 May for UK audiences. Runtime: 69m.

Join us for a Zoom Q&A with the filmmakers at 2pm on Saturday 15 May.


My Own Personal Lebanon, Theo Panagopoulos, United Kingdom, 16m, Scottish Premiere
A short documentary about a young Greek filmmaker attempting to connect with his Lebanese heritage by discovering stories of the war. Intergenerational trauma and the tension between personal and national identity are sensitively explored through conversations uncovering the silences of the past.

Borderline Coffee, Jeff Ayars, USA, 10m, European Premiere
A charming drama in which a young woman with crippling anxiety attempts to start her day with a trip to a coffee shop. Based on writer and star Susanna Stahlman’s own experiences, Borderline Coffee captures the relentlessness of her inner voices and the impact that her mental health has on her everyday life. Content: panic attack, brief nudity.

Benny’s Best Birthday, Benjamin Schuetze, Canada, 18m, European Premiere
A deeply personal drama based on director Benjamin Schuetze’s own experiences with mental illness and recovery. A filmmaker returns to his childhood home to stay with his well-meaning but ill-equipped family during the early days of his recovery. Schuetze acts in the leading role, alongside his brother, who not only co-wrote the script but also supported him throughout his illness. Content: use of medication, discussion of suicide.

Fatboy, Dan Castro, Scotland, 4m, World Premiere
After years of self-abuse, a young man realises that maybe his issues with his body aren’t actually about his body at all. This short, biographical film is about male body image, the pressure we put ourselves under, and being kind to ourselves. Content: body image, strong language.

Common Language, Voila Chajkouskaya, Estonia, 13m, UK Premiere
A filmmaker returns to the Belarusian town of Vitebsk from her studies in Estonia to talk to her parents about topics that were previously considered taboo. A raw and engaging documentary about the complexities of talking issues that impact on our mental health with the people we love and finding a common language. Content: alcohol addiction, domestic violence.

Wave Form, Daniel Tysdal, Canada, 8m, UK Premiere
This unique and visually sublime autobiographical documentary explores the power of watching and sharing films as a means of confronting mental illness. Converted into luma waveforms, original images from cinematic history are rendered unrecognisable, their representational nature exchanged for a ghostly, mesmerizing shimmer. Content: discussion of suicidal thoughts.

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