Film festivals are something near and dear to my heart. I love seeing new and interesting ideas and perspectives come to life and supporting independent film makers. Independent films, both short and feature-length, tend to focus more on storytelling than fancy visual and special effects of film making. This creates a different kind of movie-going experience that is more unique and often more memorable.
In addition, the festival atmosphere frequently puts you in a position to talk with the film makers directly and you can leave with even more understanding of the story and intention behind the film. Many festivals are scheduled through the fall and winter so they align pretty perfectly with days you’d probably prefer to stay indoors with a big bucket of popcorn and a good story anyway.
Over the years, I’ve found a few favourite festivals that I can’t miss now! The variety of films, genres, film styles, and stories are always compelling. I find I generally leave each festival wanting more and I talk and share more about films I see at film fests than any big budget films I’ve ever watched.
That said, film festival season is upon us so get ready and join in!
This is by far one of my favourite things to attend each year! The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta is host to a week-long festival that receives hundreds of submissions from around the world. Finalists are selected and the films form the collection of films that go on world tour, stopping in whopping 48 different countries. Close to home, this festival makes stops in: Campbell River (Nov 27-28, 2018), Courtenay (Nov 23-24, 2018 & Jan 14-15, 2019), Nanaimo (Nov 28-29, 2018), Quadra Island (Dec 1, 2018), Victoria (Nov 25, 2018).
This festival focuses on the outdoor pursuit of excellence and is filled with “stories of remote journeys, ground-breaking expeditions, and cutting-edge adventures told through the eyes of adventurers, authors, photographers, and filmmakers from around the globe” (from Banff Centre). There is no festival on earth that you will feel more inspired by or leave with such heart-shaped eyes! You’ll feel like anything is possible after this festival and be motivated to take on your own pursuit of excellence!
A two-day event, this festival is coming off its inaugural run in 2018. The festival attracted some of the best independent films I’ve seen in a while and brought some impressive guests including producers, writers, and directors to speak to the film after its screening. The festival took over the Hornby Island Community Centre and served beverages and fresh popcorn. Everyone had a good seat in this venue and in breaks between films, you were only minutes away from Grassy Point and Tribune Bay Beaches. In other words, the setting was second to none! At the end of the festival, they announced its success would spur them onto making this an annual event, so look for more information on this festival in the first couple months of 2019. The festival ran in March 2018 and was looking at similar dates for its second iteration.
This annual event has grown to massive proportions! In years past, this is a week-long event in February and runs in multiple venues around downtown Victoria. I like to pick out the films I want to see, plan to take in as many as I can over a couple of days, and leave not really being able to feel my legs for lack of use while sitting in the theatres! In addition to the annual festival, the VFF has also started playing festival films year round at The Vic Theatre. Here, you can indulge in local wine & beers, popcorn, and sit back & relax while watching one of the amazing films selected for the festival. It’s a great way to stay connected to independent films all year round!
Running September to May, Fringe Flicks in Nanaimo is celebrating 19 years running and features one film each month. With each film there are three showings (on Sundays and Mondays). This festival series has built up a loyal audience and overall focuses on providing an alternative to mainstream movies. All films shown are award-winning films from around the world and often pull you into an entirely different world. For instance, the first few films of this season have descriptions like:
- a gripping, stranger-than-fiction account of real-world conspiracies
- a vastly compelling human-interest story
- profoundly complex and stunning film
The films in this series are generally amazing and thoughtfully picked out to provoke conversation. I share this film series with everyone who will listen and take in as many of the films as I can over the season. To pair the Sunday matinée with a dinner out is a great treat for yourself and gives you time to decompress and continue the conversation about the film you’ve just seen.
Around the island, you’ll find so many different festivals, all with their own merits as to what makes them enjoyable and worthwhile to attend. Since it’s festival season, I did find a few others that you are going to want to keep your eye out for:
- Vancouver Island Short Film Festival – held in February at Vancouver Island University each year, this short film festival is one of a kind! The call for films is out now if you want to submit your own creations.
- World Community Film Festival – also held in February, this Courtenay festival takes aim at the world issues surrounding us and is eye-opening and thought-provoking.
- CVAG Film Series – Similar to the Fringe Flicks, the Comox Valley Art Gallery Film Series is a selection of films from the International Film Festival Film Circuit. Each year, the CVAG presents two Film Series each year – one in winter/spring and one in the fall. The films play at the Rialto Theatre on Sundays.
- Sunset Cinema Outdoor Movies – this fun, light-hearted film series runs through the summer in various outdoor venues. Coastal Community hosts the annual events in 6-8 island communities and brings popular films to a giant inflatable screen near you! Being outside and enjoying the party-like atmosphere with up to 2,000 of your fellow movie goers is pretty incredible and sometimes a good family-friendly (read: usually animated!) film is just what we need!
Do you have your favourite festival? Let us know in the comments and hopefully we’ll see you there this year!
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