Lessons in Temperament

  • a man with a broken piano
  • a man sitting at a piano


Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Sun, Mar 19, 2023 4:30 PM
Film Info
Country Listing:Canada
Cast/Crew Info
Director(s):Mitchell Cushman


Please note: due to a scheduling error, the start time for this event was originally listed as 4pm. The correct start time is 4:30pm. If you have questions, please contact us at boxoffice@hotdocs.ca.

Adapted from the award-winning live theatrical memoir, Lessons in Temperament is an innovative documentary-dramatic hybrid that uses piano tuning as a powerful storytelling device to destigmatize and humanize mental illness. The film examines the deeply personal narrative of musician James Smith and his three older brothers’ (Jason, Josh and Joey) existence on the mental health spectrum, while refracting their story through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a professional musician and theatre artist, a few years ago James taught himself how to tune pianos as an additional source of income between gigs. Through pursuing this work, he discovered something even more valuable—the perfect metaphor through which to process the complex web of neurodiversities within his family. Throughout the film, James gives the audience a crash-course on the art and science of piano tuning and the principle of equal temperament, while using it as a framework for making sense of and peace with the idea of a distempered mind. Shot amidst the challenging realities of COVID-19, Lessons in Temperament offers an urgent and cathartic story that engages with the new overwhelming forces of isolation catalyzed by the pandemic.


Join director Mitchell Cushman and writer/performer James Smith for a post-screening Q&A. Moderated by Dr. David Goldbloom, a psychiatrist and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

Tickets: $15 (Members from $10) 10% of ticket proceeds will be donated to Stella's Place.

Presented in partnership with Outside the March.

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