‘Inspiration during tough times’: Kingston Canadian Film Festival soldiers on

Festival Director Mark Garniss discusses KCFF during COVID-19

Kingston Canadian Film Festival adapts to COVID-19.
Before COVID-19, the worst impact on The Kingston Canadian Film Festival (KCFF) had been a snowstorm that interrupted one night of screenings. Last March, the festival had to power down only two days in. 
In a statement to The Journal, Festival Director Mark Garniss discussed how COVID-19 affected the 2020 Festival, and how they’ve adjusted their plans for March 2021. 
“We actually shut down the festival on day two, March 12, but that was an organizational decision, not one that was mandated by the province,” Garniss wrote. 
“I believe we were the first arts organization to cancel in Kingston and by March 16, it seemed like the entire City had closed down at which point the province had mandated closures. If we were set on completing our event, technically speaking we could have carried on until March 15, the final day of our Fest. I hope we played a part in keeping Kingston safe and healthy by acting early.”
Once the festival was canceled, everyone who’d purchased a ticket for a screening was offered a refund and encouraged to stay home. According to Garniss, there wasn’t enough time to organize online screenings for the whole slate of 2020 films. 
“However, for 2021, we’re planning to offer the Fest online through a new film festival platform that is being used by a number of events this fall, like TIFF,” Garniss said. 
“It’ll be very different. Obviously, there are pros and cons when comparing this to our traditional in-person event.  Speaking of which: we’re hoping to hold limited in-person screenings at the Fest, in addition to the digital Fest, provided it’s safe to do so in March. We’re just taking things week by week and continually reassessing. The Fest will take place March 4-7.”
Garniss and fellow organizers have anticipated reduced enthusiasm for the 2021 festival as a result of the pandemic. Because of this, they’ve waived all film submission fees. 
“It’s encouraging more filmmakers to submit their work,” he wrote. 
“We’re also accepting films that had release dates last year, so long as their release was impacted by COVID.  So, if a film isn’t brand new, but had limited traction last year due to a compromised release, we’d still consider it for the Fest.” 
Submissions are made through KCFF’s website. As always, they’re accepting films from all Canadian or Canadian-based filmmakers. 
“Our mission is to showcase and promote Canadian films and filmmakers. We consider Canadian filmmakers to include landed immigrants, permanent residents, newcomers, anyone currently living and working in Canada including international students, and Canadians living abroad.”
Garniss also wrote about why it’s so important to promote Canadian films not only in the current cultural moment, but in any given year. 
“Our national cinema is drastically underserved,” wrote Garniss.
“There’s a stat from Telefilm that claims only 2% of our national box office is spent on Canadian movies. However, many of these films are winning awards around the world at major festivals. So, we do our best to get eyes on these films and their filmmaking teams. Our mission remains the same during COVID.”
In Canada and abroad, the film industry has been hurt by the pandemic. But through thick and thin, the KCFF is keeping the flame of Canadian filmmaking lit. 
“Canadian film provides a snapshot of who we are as people, our politics, culture, humour, attitudes, and values,” Garniss wrote.
“These stories are told from filmmakers living coast to coast, ranging from aspiring [and] emerging artists all the way to Oscar-winning directors. This is a pretty significant time being a Canadian […] and I think these times are reflected in the art being created, including film. Artists tend to find inspiration during tough times—perhaps that can be a positive we take from all of this.”

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