by Ashley Jane Carruthers
Nickel City. City of Lakes. Rock…land. What am I talking about? Just over 340 kilometres north of Toronto (or over 210 miles, if you prefer) is the city where I grew up - Sudbury (in Ontario, Canada). For the last 31 years, it has been home to an international film festival known as Cinéfest. Blazing in, hot off the heels of TIFF, it showcases a wide variety of films and shorts from all over the world, often including some that people were just clamouring to get into in my beloved Toronto. And you know what? I. LOVE. CINÉFEST.
The first time I ever made an effort to check out Cinéfest on my own, I was probably in high school. As a big music fan, I used to scan the schedule to look for anything related to music. I’ll never forget going to see Festival Express back in 2003 and standing in a lineup (that’s the word we use up here) full of teens who were wonderfully happy Grateful Dead fans. Huh? I didn’t know this was a thing in my little city! I mean, we all went through that classic teenage phase of wearing tiny discreet Grateful Dead buttons on our pastel-coloured oxford shirts tucked into chinos, right? Riiiiiiiiiight? When I entered the theatre, I was so excited to see friends that I knew from school volunteering for the festival! Now, so many years later, they were among the first I excitedly told that I would be writing about this year’s festival.
Going back to my history with the festival, after testing the music doc waters, I graduated to being slightly more adventurous and looking for movies that weren’t big blockbusters, but might have had a name I recognized in a role. Baby steps. Then I widened out to take in more foreign language films. I loved what I saw. Soon it got to the point where I just wanted to see everything. Every film that was playing when I wasn’t stuck at work. All of them. Cinéfest helped to make me the film lover that I am today.
Naturally, a big part of Cinéfest’s charm is getting to see films made closer to home. I am still thinking about one in particular from two years ago, The Savage Tales of Frank MacGuffin. I’m sad when I think I likely will never see that film again, and I will never get to show it to people (Moviejawners included) who would undoubtedly get a kick out of it. But more than that, I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to be a part of the enthusiastic and playful audience that got to see the fruits of so many countless hours of hard work amazingly, almost magically, displayed on the big screen. It was absolutely one of the most fun times I have ever had at the cinema, and it’s all because of this festival.
Possibly my favorite standout feature that I always look forward to are the many LGBTQ interest films that play at Cinéfest. Stand, BPM, Call Me By Your Name, Beach Rats, Never Steady Never Still, A Fantastic Woman, and A Moment in the Reeds are just a few of the beautiful films that I have enjoyed the last few years at Cinéfest, not including so many more that I wasn’t able to see. As a member of the city’s LGBTQ community, I’m so proud to support a festival that lovingly shares these stories, and especially to be a part of a beautiful audience who truly embraces them.
This year so far, just a few days in, has been wonderful. I always see the films alone, but a large part of that festival charm comes from striking up a conversation with whoever you happened to be sitting beside. Sudbury knows films. We do! I’ve spoken to so many interesting people over the years who love movies as much as I do. (Another fun thing is explaining how on earth this Ontario girl ever started writing for this bangin’ zine and website run wayyyy far away outta Philly. That is a whole other totally amazing story!) Plus, let’s be honest, I’m also a fan of the hospitality trailer with excellent snacks, drinks, and naturally, many items from Tim Horton’s (fun fact - we have Shawn Mendes on our coffee cups now - Canada is proud of our musical youths!).
Here is a quick roundup of three upcoming films that I am very excited to see:
Once We Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band
File this one under the music doc category. Here’s the thing: I love The Band. I still dream about renting out the “Big Pink” house in Woodstock, New York (where they recorded Music From Big Pink) and recording music there myself. This is something you can actually do!! Anyway, I already have opinions about the story before I even see the film, so I can’t wait to see how it’s told in this documentary. I reallyyyy hope there is recording footage. I live for that.
Portrait de la jeune fille en fe (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)
I cannot wait to see this. It was very successful at Cannes, being selected to compete for the Palme d’Or, and going on to win for Best Screenplay. I am most excited about it because of the fact that it won the Queer Palm award (becoming the first film directed by a woman to do so)! The story seems like something I understand only too well. If this would have played at last year’s festival, I don’t think my little heart would have been able to handle it. But now I am ready! (I’ll prob cry about it to my girlfriend though.)
Isn’t everyone excited to see this one? I cannot wait. And let me tell you. It is taking extensive self-control to not read about it because I just want to experience it knowing as little as possible. But. Palme d’Or - I know that. Bong Joon-ho - I know that. Okay, I gotta stop there before I crack.
So. To make a long story short, if you aren’t at Cinéfest this week and weekend, why not? Come hang out with me! See ya there!
Please note, I am not sorry for the extreme Canadian content, the extemporaneous use of the letter u, or the spelling of theatre. Who am I kidding? Of course I am sorry.