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Mental Health Awareness Month: The Enduring Message "Back Home Again"

As we step into May, a month dedicated to mental health awareness, we also mark the anniversary of the

Fort McMurray wildfire evacuation. Today, more than ever, the narrative of resilience and community

echoed in the film Back Home Again resonates deeply, not just because of its storytelling but due to its

timely relevance amid the ongoing wildfires across Alberta and British Columbia.

In 2016, shortly after the wildfire that ravaged our lands and hearts, I met Michael Mankowski, a young

and passionate filmmaker and animator whose vision for a project, then titled The Beast, captured my

belief in the power of storytelling. I became one of the first investors and an executive producer, drawn

not only to the project but to Michael's dedication and the potential impact of his work.

Back Home Again is more than just an animated film; it is a heartfelt reminder that it's okay not to be okay. Rooted at the core of this short is a message of compassion—a beacon for those touched by

disasters, reminding us of our shared human experience. Michael often says the film is a testament to the fact that compassion connects us all, a sentiment that is especially touching as we continue to face

environmental crises that challenge our resilience.

On this anniversary, and as fires still rage, threatening landscapes and livelihoods, this film stands as a

testament to endurance and the human spirit. It’s an artistic reflection crafted through the voices of

woodland creatures of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo, narrating a story of community resilience through

the lens of animation—a medium that transcends age and time.

Featuring an all-star voice cast who generously donated their time to the project, Back Home Again boasts talents like Jeremy Renner, Martin Short, Kim Basinger, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael J. Fox, Norm Macdonald, Ed Asner, and many others—19 in total. It's quite the lineup! Their contributions have helped the film not only gain critical acclaim but also deeply resonate with audiences. The film’s universal message of hope and recovery beautifully illustrates the strength found in unity and the vital role of support in mental health recovery, reminding us time and again of the power of collective resilience.

The award-winning film, now available on YouTube, continues to inspire viewers to come together in

support of those affected by such devastating events. This Mental Health Awareness Month, I invite you

to watch Back Home Again. Let it be a reminder of the fires we’ve walked through and the resilience

we’ve built. It’s a call to embrace those still struggling with the shadows of trauma and to extend a hand

in compassion and understanding.

And remember, even as we continue to face challenges, we are not alone in this dance of life. Sometimes, the most courageous thing we can say is "no more" to silence and "yes" to seeking help and offering support.

Let us watch, reflect, and respond with open hearts. And who knows? Despite the seriousness of these

topics, I'm still ready to bust out the heels for the right occasion—because sometimes, a little sparkle is

just what we need to light up the dark. I have a feeling there will be more red-carpet events in store for

Michael and his talented team, and I'll be there, heels and all, ready to celebrate their continued success.

Here's to healing, hope, and helping each other forward.

With compassion and courage,

Janet Folk (Author / Entrepreneur)


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