Fall 2023 Film Festival Roundup
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(September 22, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Earlier this month I mentioned I’d be updating information about some of the fall film festivals we’ve been listing for years. Fall arrives tomorrow, and I’m a little late getting to this.
First, a change. For years we have also listed non-Canadian film festivals, but the task of keeping up with what was screening where and trying to ascertain if the opening and/or closing dates had changed, it just became too much. Since our focus has always been on Canadian film and filmmakers, as Publisher I decided our focus on festivals would also be strictly Canadian.
Secondly, I apologize to mobile users for any issues you’re having with our website. We are aware of the problem and have been trying to figure out what went wrong and why, so when it gets fixed it doesn’t break again. To see the full page of cast and crew information for films or someone’s filmography, please use a desktop computer.
I am pleased to announce that we will soon begin to redesign and rebuild the website and I hope work on that will begin in early October. Earlier this year we registered the domain filmfestivalscanada.com and I hope we can spin off our film festival lists into a far more robust, functional and attractive website. Northernstars.ca will continue covering film festival news from coast-to-coast. Okay. Here goes…
First up, I must mention a new film festival and a new film contest I heard about from the Montreal Film Industry Network. The challenge, open to Québec residents only for this particular event, is to produce a short film, no longer than 5 minutes and with a budget not to exceed $200. They are looking for something weird to reflect the festival, which is the Festival Cabane à Sang. They’ve been celebrating short horror and sci-fi films since 2017. You have fewer than 40 days to enter. Those shorts selected by the judges will screen on December 1st of this year. The next festival is in May, 2024.
October begins with some major film festivals being carried over from September. These include the Edmonton and Calgary festivals, which kicked off yesterday and end on October 1st and 2nd, respectively. Also ending on October 1st is the Montréal International Black Film Festival and the Toronto Palestine Film Festival. The Vancouver International Film Festival starts on September 28 and continues to until October 8. The opening film is the Finland/German copro Fallen Leaves (aka Kuolleet Lehdet) directed by Aki Kaurismäki. It will close with La passion de Dodin Bouffant (aka The Taste of Things, pictured above) from Tran Anh Hùng, the same film that will open Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.
The first new festival of October is, appropriately, Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. It runs from October 4 to 15 and as mentioned kicks off with La passion de Dodin Bouffant (The Taste of Things) from Tran Anh Hùng at the Cinéma Impérial. Shot in France and running 134 minutes, it will be followed by an opening night “soirée” at 10PM that is free to attend.
Some of the larger festivals, in terms of length, include Toronto’s The Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival, Planet in Focus, which should be a “must attend” as it is now totally apparent our planet is no longer in focus, and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.
imagineNATIVE opens with the US production Fancy Dance (pictured above). The 145 minute feature in Cayuga and English tells the story of Jax (played by Lily Gladstone). Since her sister went missing, she has cared for her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) by scraping by on the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma. Every spare minute goes into finding her missing sister while also helping Roki prepare for an upcoming powwow. At the risk of losing custody to Jax’s father, the pair hit the road and scour the backcountry to track down Roki’s mother in time for the powwow. What begins as a search gradually turns into a far deeper investigation into the complexities and contradictions of Indigenous women moving through a colonized world and at the mercy of a failed justice system. Directed by Erica Tremblay it screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7PM on October 17.
Shorter, but no less important October festivals include the Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ film festival in Ottawa. It runs for 4 days, October 6 to 8. The Toronto Art House Film Festival also runs 4 days, October 17 to 20. Running for October 17 to 21, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. The opening night Gala is a screening of Ruth Lawrence’s Party Pirate (pictured above). Synopsis: When Tommy is fired twice in the same week and finds out his brilliant best friend and lifeline, Costa, is leaving the country for a better job, he seizes an opportunity to prove his worth by taking his friends on a trip – in a stolen boat. Look for a hilarious cameo by none other than Mary Walsh. The festival launches on Tuesday, October 17 and Party Pirate unspools at the Majestic Theatre at 7PM.
In short, between September festivals drifting into October and October festival getting started, there are 19 film festivals worth investigating and, I am proud to say, they range from coast to coast, from St.John’s to Victoria, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There’s a lot to see on screen across Canada. Click here for links to our October Film Festivals.
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.