Kingston Canadian Film Festival returns

Screenings to focus exclusively on national film industry

Tragedy Girls.
A still from Tragedy Girls. 
Photo Supplied by Marc Garniss

From March 1 to 4, the Kingston Canadian Film Festival will return to screens around the city.

This year’s festival has all the familiar landmarks — Q&As, solely Canadian filmmakers and a selection that runs the spectrum of feature-length and short films. 

According to Festival Director Marc Garniss, one of the festival’s real distinctions is its ability to connect audiences with filmmakers. He said the layers of separation and security between creators and audience members at larger commercial festivals are less apparent in this case. 

“If you leave the theatre after the film and they’re milling about in the lobby, you can usually just go up to them and chat with them. It’s a good opportunity to learn more or, if you’re a filmmaker, get some advice,” he said.

Garniss added the majority of the festival’s screenings will also include a Q&A with a special guest afterward. 

A clear standout of this year’s event is Alanis Obomsawin, an 85-year-old filmmaker who’ll be appearing with her documentary, Our People Will Be Healed

It’s the fiftieth film in Obomsawin’s long career of telling the stories of Indigenous peoples with distinctive 

interviews and evocative landscape photography. Her documentary profiles the Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, and details the community’s efforts towards decolonization despite a lasting legacy of colonial policies.

Opportunities like the Q&A with Obomsawin amongst other authors offer the audience a chance to engage and ask questions. 

“If you’re a filmmaker, you can ask something specific to the craft or if you’re just more interested in the subject matter … you can ask how to get involved in whatever the [film’s] message was,” Garniss said.

Audience members can likewise participate through audience choice awards and workshop events. 

Unlike other years, Garniss said the upcoming festival will also be experimenting with live podcasts.  

The first, “This Movie’s About You” will ask festival guests about their ideal double billing. This event will feature Cory Bowles from Trailer Park Boys and Mark Little from Mr. D. 

The other two — “Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids” and CBC’s “Someone Knows Something” — will similarly break up the schedule. 

He added that the festival has come a long way from its humble origins in 2001. At the time, Queen’s film student Alex Jansen was working at the Screening Room and founded the festival.

Since then, the event has grown substantially, making forays into comedy and music while steadily expanding its content. Nonetheless, the festival retains its Queen’s connections — about half the volunteer staff is made up of students and the shorts program includes student contributions.

Garniss said the festival strongly benefitted from this focus on local and Canadian filmmaking. He said American or European contributions can often crowd out Canadian movies at larger festivals. Even outside of larger festivals, these movies can often be harried with short-runs and limited screenings.

The idea is to put the spotlight elsewhere.

“[We] try to make it a more memorable experience than any old weekend at the movies,” Garniss said. 


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