Film Festival Season – 2021
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(September 7, 2021 – Toronto, ON) It is the day after Labour Day. In the film calendar this is the start of the annual Film Festival Season. In the next three months there are at least 49 Canadian film festivals and we’re sure there are more. By counting the red maple leaf symbols on our film festivals pages there are 14 Canadian festivals this month, 20 in October and 15 in November.
There are a number of reasons why so many festivals are crammed into the Autumn months. In part the large studios have made it through the summer blockbuster period and are now looking to Christmas and next year’s release schedule. Also, with the end of summer and the start of school, families have returned from vacations and filmgoers are looking for what’s new on the big screen. There’s an odd personal cachet in being able to brag to your friends that you saw such-and-such film months before it was released. An even bigger draw with even greater bragging rights is the vital presence of the stars, including big name directors or producers.
Having a film win an award at a prestigious festival helps drive the box office take. Just having it screen at a number of large festivals creates a word-of-mouth base that also contributes to the all-important box office. Dune is a perfect example. It premiered at the 78th annual Venice Film Festival on Friday and will screen at The Toronto International Film Festival in mid-September. It will in fact enjoy 5 in-cinema screenings here as well as a cross-Canada satellite screening on September 12. This will be Villeneuve’s 8th film to screen at TIFF. The 155-minute film is generating terrific buzz with Eric Eisenberg writing for Cinemablend saying “Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is a perfect adaptation of one of the great literary sci-fi epics.” Variety critic Owen Gleiberman said Dune was an “eye-bogglingly vast adaptation” of the 1965 Frank Herbert novel.
For us this time of year is a bit of a toss up. We can report on some festivals and not others. Just one example is the Vancouver International Film Festival. It opens October 1st but they won’t publish their schedule until tomorrow and we don’t want to wait.
We’ve already covered a few of the Canadian films screening at TIFF, and we’re pleased with the fact that many of the festivals taking place this month have a respectable number of Canadian productions in their programs. This includes small festivals in large cities like the annual Cabbagetown Short Film Festival, which is celebrating its 30th year. Three programs offer films from France, Spain, Russia the United States and elsewhere. Seven of the short films are from Toronto-based directors.
The FIN Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax starts two days before TIFF ends. It’s also offers shorts as part of their schedule including Canada Shorts and Atlantic Shorts. Their opening film is the Canadian feature Wildhood.
Like Vancouver, the Calgary International, opening on September 23, won’t release it’s full schedule until tomorrow but we do know Michael McGown’s adaptation of the best-selling novel All My Puny Sorrows will screen there. It will screen at TIFF on September 10. It isn’t scheduled to go into general release until April of next year so bragging rights are available for people who see it during its festival run.
Some festivals are really narrow in their subject matter. For example the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival. How many Canadian films get made where a motorcycle plays a part? Festival organizers proclaim that this year they reached a new milestone with five Canadian films in the program selected from 13 Canadian submissions. Who knew?? The Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival opens September 17 and runs until September 25.
The OIAF (Ottawa International Animation Festival) opens September 22 and is North America’s oldest and largest animation festival. If you’re into animation and anywhere near Ottawa this is the animation festival you must attend. Speaking of animation you might also be interested in the Montreal Stop-Motion festival opening September 10.
There’s Cinéfest Sudbury, the Montreal International Black Film Festival and many others. October brings another diverse range of festivals including the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, St. John’s Int’l Women’s Film & Video Festival in St. John’s, NL, CinéFranco, Rendezvous with Madness, the Reelworld Film Festival and Toronto Art House film festival this year hosted by Northernstars Toronto contributor Thom Ernst. Then there’s November.
In short, when it comes to Canadian film festivals there’s something for everyone. Follow the links to these film festival pages and find a location near to you. There’s lots to see and most of the festivals listed are hybrids. That is they are offering both in-cinema and virtual screening schedules so you can attend the festival while safely ensconced in the comfort of your own home.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.