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Seeing Voices

'Canvas' paints a sympathetic portrait of mental illness

By David Templeton

Canvas, last seen in the North Bay at April's Sonoma Valley Film Festival, is a beautiful little film about mental illness that has been praised by critics for its vitality and un-sappy honesty, and has picked up numerous awards at film festivals across the country. Inspired by director Joe Greco's real-life experiences as the son of a woman with schizophrenia, it tells the story of a boy (Devon Gearhart) whose love for his mother, a brilliant painter, has become complicated by her baffling illness and the way it is affecting his relationship with others. Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden portrays his mother and, with patience, integrity and decency, Greco's father is portrayed by Joe Pantoliano.

The film, which has been building a solid fan-base through festival screenings and a strong web presence (check out is set to be released in theaters this winter. Thanks to the Santa Rosa chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), the film will be given a special one-night-only screening this weekend at Third Street Cinema in Santa Rosa, with director Greco in attendance. He'll be in town (with rumors that Pantoliano may tag along) for NAMI's annual "Heroes in the Fight" awards dinner, at which he will be honored with the media award, given to journalists and others whose work has helped to de-stigmatize depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. The film, with remarkable dual performances by Harden and Pantoliano, is worthy of attention for the dignity and depth of its storytelling, as one family discovers that, like in art, remarkable beauty can be created out of the most unlikely of materials.

Movie Times Canvas, with director Joe Greco in attendance, screens one time only, Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Third Street Cinema. 620 Third St., Santa Rosa. 7pm. $5-$15. 707.527.6655.

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