Mondays with Bruce Saunders: a flick and fresh perspective
25 Nov 2009 11:20, by Stuart Armstrong

Movie Mondays has been showing films and raising awareness for 16 years, courtesy of Bruce Saunders.
Looking for something to do on a Monday night?

Try exploring mental illness and social issues with Movie Mondays.

Showing specialty films for the public is nothing unusual. What is unusual about this theatre is that it's part of the Eric Martin Pavilion mental health and addiction services centre off of Fort Street and Lee Avenue on the east side of Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Bruce Sanders, a landscape architect and former patient of the Pavilion, started the operation after his second stay at the Pavilion in 1993.

He found the theatre, a 100-person lecture hall at the time, and it instantly tweaked his imagination.

"I found that the atmosphere in the ward was not conducive to recovery. We had these two TVs blaring at people from across different corners of the room. Then, one day, another patient told me about the music program going on in the lecture hall. So I went and, as I was sitting there, I thought 'what a great place to watch movies,'" he said.

"A few weeks after I left, I asked if I could show movies there."

He decided to show movies to expand discussion on mental illness and triumph of the spirit.

"If you had a theatre like this what would you do with it?" Sanders asked.

After an initial run, where only 14 people from the wards attended, Sanders opened the event to the public. 16 years later, it is still a vibrant event going strong.

Last year, the Martlet ran an article on one Movie Monday event- Films and Forums About Homelessness.

The highlight film was the recently released "Something to Eat, a Place to Sleep, and Someone Who Gives a Damn," made by newbie Vancouver filmmaker Les Merson, photographer Ken Villeneuve and recovering homeless woman Gloria Willson.

The trio are now making a film titled "Street Sisters," about nine Aboriginal women and their struggles to recover from homelessness and addiction.

Over the years, Sanders has gained awards, popular attendance and official recognition from the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors and the Canadian Medical Association for stimulating the conversation on mental illness issues through film.

"What I saw was a lot of wasted time in front of the TV watching [rotten] movies," he said.

Saunders also observed that the theatre has had some interesting social effects.

"What I thought was great, was [the public] talking about [the movies] and the issues afterwards, which is unusual in today's culture."

Every week the theatre shows movies ranging from independent documentaries (such as the 46-minute long documentary Four Feet Up about child poverty in Nova Scotia), to the more popularly known Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (two women trying to find meaning in beating butter and cooking lobsters that refuse to die).

HBO's The Gathering Storm, Albert Finney's portrayal of Sir Winston Churchill as he battles both an apathetic British government and his melancholia- his "Black Dog"- is coming up on Nov. 30.

Dec. 7 will see The Living Museum, where the patients of a small New York mental institution seek treatment through painting.

Sanders says his work to promote discussion is still not finished after 16 years.

"Unfortunately, the stigmas [about mental illness] still exist all these years later," Saunders said.

Popcorn is for sale (cheap!) at the movies, usually made by Vic Theatre. sponsors the Movie Monday website.

The a by-donation event starts at 6:30 p.m. every Monday. Some weeks also include panel talks and other discussions.