Film Festivals West to East
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(February 7, 2024 – Toronto, ON) You can’t get much further west than the Victoria Film Festival, which continues for a few more days and where we start our look at various festivals running this month across Canada.
Tonight a 6:30 at the Capital 6 in Victoria, Elliot Page stars in Close to You (pictured above) from director Dominic Savage. It’s about chance, the past, the future and the constant of people. Page plays Sam, a young trans man living in Toronto, who is on his way to a family reunion to celebrate his farther’s birthday. He begins the trip with more than a little trepidation. By luck, chance, coincidence, karma, on the train home he spots his best friend from high school, Katherine (Hillary Baack). Close to You had its World Premiere at TIFF last September. The 30th annual Victoria Film Festival continues until February 11th.
The Available Light Film Festival (ALFF) opens tomorrow in Whitehorse with the mystery-thriller The King Tide. From their website, the film, set in a struggling East Coast island community, “is given a mysterious lifeline when an infant washes up on their beach. The baby radiates a rejuvenating aura, healing anyone who spends a few moments in her presence. But after a decade of prosperity, Isla’s adoptive parents must decide whether her safety takes precedence over their community’s expectations.” The 100-minute feature was directed by Christian Sparkes. The ALFF, founded in 2003, continues until February 18.
Being Black History Month it’s no surprise there are two Black film festivals this month. The Halifax Black Film Festival kicks off on February 23 and the Toronto Black Film Festival opens on Valentine’s Day with a feature from Sudan titled Goodbye Julia. Directed by Mohamed Kordofani, the story focuses on Mona, a retired singer from the north of Sudan, who accidentally hits a Southern child with her car and drives away. When the child’s father chases her on his motorbike, she calls her husband for help. As soon as she returns home, her husband shoots and kills the man, not knowing Mona hit his son. Burdened by guilt and depression, Mona covertly searches for the victim’s family to offer some compensation and finds the dead man’s widow, Julia. Goodbye Julia screens at the Isabel Bader Theatre at 7:30PM.
Still in Toronto, the 7th edition of the Pendance Film Festival will screen at the Carlton Cinemas in downtown Toronto from February 22 to 25. This year’s schedule has 41 titles from around the world. The opening feature is the Canadian Premiere of Ararat. In German/Turkish with English subtitles, a destructive young woman, Zeynep, is accused of intentionally causing a car accident to harm her boyfriend. She flees from Berlin to her parents’ house close to a dormant volcano, the Mount Ararat. With her sexual aggression she turns her parents’ deadlocked marriage and an entire society upside down – but not the dormant demons from her past.
The 2024 Rendez-vous du cinéma Québecois kicks of on February 21 and includes a gala soirée. The opening film is from the critically acclaimed award-winning director Anne Émond. Titled Lucy Grizzli Sophie, the Sophie we meet (Catherine-Anne Toupin) is a hunted, traumatized woman. Seeking to escape her reality, she lands in a B&B hundreds of miles from home. There, she is greeted by Martin (Guillaume Cyr), who lives in the place with his aunt, Louise (Lise Roy). Over the course of drunken evenings, tongues are loosened and a disturbing complicity emerges between Martin and Sophie. This is a World Premiere screening for the 89-minute film.
Next week we’ll look at festivals opening in March. Click here for links to these and other February 2024 Canadian 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.