25 Film Festivals You Should Know About
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(October 17, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Counting what’s left of this week, there are 13 weeks until the end of the year, mathematically one quarter of 2023. October and November are busy film festival months before things get really quiet in December.
The 34th annual St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival started today. The festival runs five days in theatre and launches tonight with Ruth Lawrence’s Party Pirate (pictured above). Black Barbie screens tomorrow, as does Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun and Back Spot. There are 24 shorts on the schedule including one of our favourites, Holly Andersen’s Hebron Relocation.
There’s a treat coming to the 2023 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. It’s the horror-comedy series Tales from the Rez from producer Colin Van Loon and writer/director Trevor Solway. The anthology series breathes life into popular Blackfoot urban legends. Guided by Uncle Randolf, an Elder with one foot in the living world and one foot in the spirit world, the series presents unique screen adaptations of these stories. Each episode blends humour and spine-chilling suspense to offer a new twist on age-old tales. The initial season takes place in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot confederacy also known as Southern Alberta, Treaty 7. Subsequent seasons will travel to other Indigenous communities around the globe. Tales from the Rez won the Audience Choice Award at the 2023 Calgary International Film Festival. imagineNATIVE opens with the US production Fancy Dance and kicks off today and runs until October 29.
The 17th Annual Toronto After Dark: Horror, Sci-Fi, & Action Film Festival slashes its way into Toronto tomorrow. It’s a short festival running from the 18th to the 22nd at the Scoctiabank Theatre. Ten features and 29 shorts should tune you up for Halloween. Highlights as selected by the festival include the scary SXSW hit Late Night With the Devil, the Christmas horror-slasher feature It’s a Wonderful Knife, featuring Justin Long, the Lovecraftian horror-thriller Suitable Flesh starring Heather Graham, a murder mystery comedy Daniel’s Gotta Die, which contains the final performance of Bob Saget, and the acclaimed new Sci-fi thriller Restore Point, which is also known as the “Czech Blade Runner.”
The award-winning filmmaker Nisha Platzer’s, deeply personal documentary feature debut back home is the opening night film at Rendezvous with Madness 2023. The film enjoyed three sold out screenings at its World Premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival as well as a successful film festival run which included RIDM in Montreal, Chicago Underground Film Festival, and Local Sightings in Seattle, back home will screen on Friday Oct 27th at 6:30pm at the CAMH Auditorium. Platzer will be in attendance for a post film Q&A. The 31st Rendezvous with Madness runs from the October 27 to November 5.
The ReelWorld film festival opens November 1. They proudly declare that all films “are created by Canadian filmmakers and storytellers who are Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, and People of Colour.” Opening night brings With Love and a Major Organ (pictured above) from director Kim Albright working with a script by Toronto writer Julia Lederer, which was adapted from her own stage play. Briefly, in a world where people’s hearts are made of inanimate objects and emotions are pragmatically dealt with rather than experienced, Anabel (Anna Maguire) sticks out. She still feels big feelings and is determined to do things “the normal way.” One winter afternoon she meets an intriguing but reticent stranger named George (Hamza Haq), and begins to fall in love. But after a series of emotional blows (including rejection by George), Anabel decides she can’t handle a life with such a surfeit of pain. She rips her heart out and delivers it to George, unlocking something in him he’s never experienced before. Veena Sood and Donna Benedicto help round out the cast. With Love and a Major Organ will screen at 7pm at The Royal Theatre in Toronto.
The Vancouver Asian Film Festival launches on November 2 with the 115 minute Malaysian feature Rain Town. Director Tunku Mona Riza tells the story of Choo, the head of a household who unrelentingly wields control over his three grown children: Isaac, Alex and Ruby, disregarding their dreams and happiness. When Aileen, Choo’s wife, is struck by a tragedy, the family drifts further apart embroiling them in a heartbreaking conflict. There is lots of Canadian content including a short narrative films program and some features. VAFF runs until November 12 and this is their 27th festival.
OCAN is the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival which runs just 3 days from November 2 to 4. It opens with the documentary Lunch at the Rideau, which is an homage to Ottawa’s beloved Rideau Bakery lunch counter, which opened in 1965 and no longer exists. It’s a short from Ottawa-based producer, writer, and director of documentary films, and an associate of Kublacom Pictures, Jane Gurr.
RIDM, the Montreal International Documentary Festival is always special because documentaries are special and the programmers always seem to come up with inventive ways of enticing viewers into the world of documentary films. Running from November 15 to 26, this year’s focus is Bidayyat, which trains its lens on the Middle East. This year’s opening film is Bye Bye Tiberias by French-Palestinian-Algerian director Lina Soualem. The film, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival before being selected at TIFF, is a poignant exploration of exile, while celebrating the resilience of family ties. The filmmaker follows her mother, actress and director Hiam Abbass (Inheritance, Lemon Tree, Succession), as she paints an intergenerational portrait of the women in her family.
There are 25 festivals between now and the end of November. Find them all here:
Ralph Lucas is a former broadcast executive and award-winning director in high-end corporate video production. The founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca, online since 1998, he began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.