Before she began working on a short film about her personal struggle with self-harming, filmmaker Alex Anna wasn't comfortable talking about her experiences openly.
"I couldn't even use the word self-harming when I was talking about myself. I almost never talked about my depression experience with anyone," she told CBC's Let's Go.
"The outcome is really positive in that now I am able to talk about it and hopefully open the dialogue for people around me and people who will see the film."
The film, Scars, is a 10-minute blend of documentary and animation which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 15.
Anna described Scars as a "personal portrait" focused on her self-harming behaviour as a young teenager.
She said for her, self-harming was a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety and things feeling out of control.
While the film offers an unflinching view of Anna's own scars, the end is infused with the hopeful message of recovery and growth.
Anna said it's a project she'd wanted to realize for a long time, but worried that fictionalizing her experience would push her storytelling toward clichés and stereotypes.
"I thought maybe if I went with a documentary form that was really based on my experience, I could grasp more authenticity and hopefully build this character of myself that felt more real to people and more relatable," she said.
Making the film with animator Clément Natiez and editor Valérie Tremblay proved "a long, complex and definitely triggering process," but Anna said the result was a newfound openness.
"It makes me vulnerable, but I think it's a good thing to make yourself vulnerable if it can help other people," she said.
Anna is also hoping the film helps spark conversations about self-harm and recovery, because she knows about the stigma surrounding the issue firsthand.
"People will see your scars, you know, when it's summer and you can see them, but nobody asks about it," she said. "Even 10 years after all this, a lot of my friends don't know about it, so hopefully the film will change that."
The film is in French and has English subtitles. Scars will be screening online as part of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.