Kings of Can

Local festival brings the best of national cinema

The Kingston Canadian Film Festival brings Canadian films such as Toronto Stories.
The Kingston Canadian Film Festival brings Canadian films such as Toronto Stories.
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C’est past moi, je le jure into local theatres.
C’est past moi, je le jure into local theatres.
Credit: 
Supplied
Deepa Mehta’s Heaven On Earth will grace the screen of Empire Theatre this weekend.
Deepa Mehta’s Heaven On Earth will grace the screen of Empire Theatre this weekend.
Credit: 
Supplied

Film buffs looking for their fix of Canadian cinema need look no further than the ninth annual Kingston Canadian Film Festival, happening this weekend.

With its range of the best in anglo and franco national cinema and its free skills-training workshops with industry professionals, the festival has something for everyone. Casual cinema-goers, buffs and those itching to get a foot in the National Film Board’s door can take in a healthy dose of Canadian content as well as rub shoulders with the people making it all happen. Producers, directors, actors and critics will be coming to town for the festival to present their films and run workshops on topics such as animation and how to break into the industry. Festival Director Alison Migneault said her main goal is to provide an opportunity for Canadian filmmakers to showcase their work.

“This is one of the few opportunities that Kingstonians have throughout the year to watch Canadian films,” she said, adding that the festival has matured a great deal in the nine years since its founding, with 15 to 20 per cent of attendees in recent years coming from outside Kingston.

“It’s grown a lot. The first year it started it was one screening at the Screening Room.”

Migneault said this year’s schedule includes 13 feature films in addition to short films—for a total of almost 20 screenings.

“We also do a local filmmaking initiative,” she said. “We’re really committed to showcasing national cinema as well as providing an opportunity for local filmmakers to develop.”

Migneault said the film industry in Canada struggles to compete with American movies at the box office.

“It’s a tough industry,” she said. “Often when people come to the festival for the first time they’re amazed at the quality of the films.”

Many Canadian filmmakers choose to work abroad because it can be hard to make a living here, she said, adding that she thinks it’s important for Canadians to see their own stories on film.

“There’s something to be said for having a national cinema.”

Peter Raymont, executive producer of the CBC series The Border and ArtSci ’71, will be speaking about his show as part of the festival.

Although Raymont has spent a lot of time in Kingston over the years, both as a student and during a brief stint as an instructor in the film department in 2008, this is his first year participating in the festival.

Raymont, who works mainly on documentaries—his credits as a director includes Shake Hands with the Devil, a documentary on Roméo Dallaire—said the idea for The Border grew out of his work in documentary film.

His session will focus on how the show was written, produced and funded, Raymont said, adding that some of the show’s lead actors such as Graham Abbey and Jonas Chernick will also be present to speak about their roles.

“What’s interesting is how many people went to Queen’s who work on The Border,” Raymont said. “I hired two of my students from when I taught film studies.”

Raymont said the economic crisis presents even more challenges to the already-struggling Canadian film industry.

“It’s a different time now for everyone because of the economic crisis. … Fortunately The Border’s in pretty good shape,” he said, adding that although recessions can prove problematic for cinema, they can benefit television.

“I think more people are probably going to be at home watching television.”

Raymont said American networks are beginning to pick up Canadian shows as a cost-saving measure, and are surprised by their quality.

“It looks really good for Canada and for producers like me.”

“Building The Border” will take place at Etherington Hall Auditorium on Sunday, Mar. 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, go to kingcanfilmfest.com

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