– Venetia Bodanis, staff
The Brantford Film Festival is a fun and exciting festival that doesn’t leave you overwhelmed by the amount of films, or intimidated by the sometimes snobby, self-proclaimed cinephiles that make up the audience – both elements you would find in most film festivals.
Another plus about the Brantford Film Festival (BFF) is that the reasonable price of admission allows attendees to see as many films as they want. This year, the second annual BFF took place from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5, already an expansion from its first year.
“We’ve got three days instead of two for a more targeted viewing for Brantford and for family friendliness,” says Elisabeth Kolenko, Manager of Operations for the Brantford Arts Block and member of the organizing committee for the BFF. “We’ve also increased our reach as to where the festival has gone. We’ve had feedback from moviegoers from St. Catharines to Woodstock, as well as Toronto.”
The relatively small festival is only in its second year, but already there are a few more elements than there were last year, including a People’s Choice Award. This new award, a common award among other film festivals, allows audience members to vote for the film that they most enjoyed. Along with the People’s Choice Award, the festival has also managed to expand both its viewership and the number of screenings.
The improved viewing experience was evident at the screening of the locally-based film Clark Kent, which screened to a full house Saturday afternoon. Director Bryan Atkinson and cinematographer Rick O’Brien won the People’s Choice Award for their film. Atkinson and O’Brien graciously accepted their award (an appropriately fitting old film canister), and made sure to thank the film’s main characters Kent and Karen Butcher for their openness and hospitality during filming.
“Today’s screening of Clark Kent brought out the neighbourhood. We had two local filmmakers in the audience for both the Tree and for Clark Kent and it really brought out the neighbourhood. Odeon 2 was packed,” says Rhys Geldhill, the Citizen Representative on the BFF’s organizing committee.
The festival had a total of 35 screenings from four different categories: documentaries, shorts, features and student/youth. The Aboriginal category, which was present last year during the festival, unfortunately did not receive enough submissions this time around to warrant a separate category.
The festival concluded with the annual Gala Awards Ceremony, which hosted an eclectic group of people who came out to see which films won awards from the five different categories. German film Quirk of Fate directed by Marco J. Riedl won best feature, Freedom directed by Nancy Edwards won both best documentary and the coveted best in festival award, best student/youth film was the animated short Friday Night Tights directed by Joonki Park, and best short went to To Rest in Peace, directed by Fawas Al-Matrouk.
To Rest in Peace follows a man during the Kuwait war who wants to bury two strangers who have been killed by Iraqi soldiers and left in a car by the side of the road to rot without a proper burial. The Canadian filmmaker, Fawas Al-Matrouk, based his story off his uncle’s personal experience, so finally having a screening in Canada was exciting for him.
“I grew up in Toronto and I’m Canadian by character – that’s where I’ve spent most of my life – so this is our Canadian premier. It’s been a year of traveling to festivals and really wanting to show the film in Canada and so now that it has finally happened, it couldn’t have happened at a better festival,” Al-Matrouk said after winning the best short award Saturday evening.
With submissions this time coming from as far as Germany, the BFF will undoubtedly get bigger and better each year. The BFF organizing committee member, Paula Thomlison, believes that the festival has done more than what was expected this year but explains that expansion isn’t a quick thing.
“It’s growing. I find things like this take time. I found in the last few years Brantford has really taken on a different complexion,” explains Thomlison. “A lot of super things are happening in the city. And from some of the comments being made by the filmmakers and the enthusiastic reviews by the people taking the time to see some of the screenings, I can tell that our citizens and our visitors are embracing our efforts.”
The Brantford Film Festival is a great addition to the Brantford arts community. The festival is garnering much excitement from both the filmmakers who make submissions, and from community members.
However, the growth of the festival will take time and dedication from the organizers, volunteers and the festival’s ever-expanding audience.