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Sean Clifton in hospitalSean Clifton was found not criminally responsible and spent many years in treatment.

It was a wedding born of a terrible act of violence. In 1999 Sean Clifton, in a psychotic frenzy, tried to stab to death a complete stranger, “the prettiest girl he’d seen”, at a mall in Cornwall Ontario. Most of those involved in the violent incident have been invited to the wedding. For some the wounds have never healed. Can they set aside their fears and grievances for the occasion?  This extraordinary wedding gathering – and the dark secrets beneath the revelry –  are among the remarkable events depicted in Not Criminally Responsible: Wedding Secrets by 4-time Emmy-winner John Kastner, sequel to his acclaimed 2013 documentary NCR: Not Criminally Responsible.

So great was the response to that film (The Globe and Mail wrote of it: “The Importance and greatness of NCR: Not Criminally Responsible” cannot be overstated.”) that CBC's Firsthand commissioned the sequel, Not Criminally Responsible: Wedding Secrets.

Scene from the film: Julie and Sean are incredibly nervous about meeting for the first time since the attack.

The new film follows Clifton 3 years later through a series of astonishing developments sparked by the original film. It shows how the lives of six of people involved in the film were significantly transformed and, incredibly, became intertwined with each other, sometimes in almost bizarre ways. Two of them marry each other on camera in Not Criminally Responsible: Wedding Secrets.

Bride and Groom kissA wedding is borne out of a violent act

When both the perpetrator, Sean Clifton and his victim Julie Bouvier discover they have been invited to the wedding it creates a painful dilemma. She has avoided all contact with him since his sanity hearing 17 years earlier. He wants to apologize. She wants to flee. The conflict threatens to rupture the happy occasion.

Kastner’s cameras are on hand to capture this remarkable chain of events. "It's a remarkable story but it has a serious purpose. My over-arching goal (as in the original film) was to de-stigmatize sufferers of mental illness."

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"Sean was horribly ill when he committed his violent act — he couln't help himself. but he must live in the shadow of it for the rest of his life. The film explores what a crushing burden this is to carry."

“You couldn’t make this stuff up,” says Andy Bouvier, father of the victim, "Nobody would believe it."  Or as Sean Clifton points out in amazement at the wedding: “The only reason we’re all together in this dining room is because I attacked somebody. If I hadn’t done such a crazy thing like knifing somebody, the wedding never would have come about.”

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