Spring 2023 Film Festival Preview
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(March 6, 2023 – Toronto, ON) We’re about 14 days from the official start of Spring, but depending on where you live and how much snow is on the ground, that might seem like some distant promise. Between now and June there are 25 Canadian film festivals that we know about. There are links to our festival pages below.
There are a handful of large festivals and many small festivals across the country. The Kingston Canadian Film Festival wrapped last night. It launched on March 2nd, the same day as the Kamloops Film Festival in British Columbia, where they are celebrating their 27th festival and it runs until March 11th. The Whale, which has created a lot of buzz and some awards for its star, Brendan Fraser, screens tonight at 6:30. Of local note is the documentary Finding Fred Lee. The young Kamloops man joined the Rocky Mountain Rangers in 1916 and disappeared at the Western Front during World War One. Presumed killed at the Battle of Hill 70 in France, Fred Lee’s body was never recovered. His life was forgotten for 100 years. Kudos for director Jack Gin for bringing this man’s story back to life. Finding Fred Lee screens this Thursday, March 9 at 6:00PM.
The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival is running their in-theatre dates from March 8 to the 11 and then again but online only from March 12 to the 25, which is why they are listed twice. Now in their 18th year, VIWFF is the only film festival dedicated to women and gender diverse people in Western Canada, and one of just three international film festivals for women and gender diverse people in Canada.
The International Ottawa Film Festival (IOFF) also kicks off on March 8 with a screening of I Like Movies, which was chosen as the best Canadian film of 2022 by the Vancouver Critics Circle. A highlight of the festival is a world premiere screening of the recently restored When Night is Falling with director Patricia Rozema and costar Pascale Bussieres in attendance.
One of the more fascinating film genres, to me anyway, is art films and Montreal hosts the annual International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA). Billed as “the largest art and art film festival in the world,” this year, the festival’s 41st edition, will screen more than 220 films from 49 countries. In one of the festival’s section titled La Nuit de la danse (The Night of the Dance), there are 28 films, 19 of them from Québec filmmakers. Also of note, Études for Augmented Piano by Su Rynard (pictured above) has been selected and will be screening at the International Competition Short Films. It takes viewers inside Eve Egoyan’s world as she creates new work for augmented piano. The story is told through snapshot like moments, journal entries and visual explorations that playfully reveal the secrets of how the elusive sounds in her compositions are produced. FIFA runs from March 14 to 26.
One of our favorites is the Canadian Film Festival. Northernstars™ was there for its first year and it returns this year starting on March 28 and running until April 1. One of the reasons we like it is, like the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, it’s all Canadian all the time and we’re all for that. The Opening Night film is The Babysitter, an 87-minute comedy from director Monia Chokri.
One of the smaller festivals takes place in the town of Hudson, Quebec, some 55kms from downtown Montreal. Calling itself the “BIG little festival” it opens April 12 with the Canadian feature Run Woman Run from director Zoe Leigh Hopkins, which had its premiere screening at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
Other festivals next month include the Montreal Independent Film Festival, the Toronto Next Wave and the Calgary Underground Film Festival. But the biggie in April is another of our favorite festivals, Hot Docs which opens April 27 and runs until May 7. No details yet, but if you love documentaries, mark these dates for this year’s Hot Docs.
Just as Hot Docs is ending, Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary festival begins. Running from May 4 to 14. Submissions to the festival are now closed and the selection process is underway, but it’s too early to know what’s on their 2023 schedule. Also coming in May, the ReelAbilities Film Festival in Toronto and the Montreal Underground Film Festival.
Small but important is the two-day Yorkton Film Festival in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. It’s been around since 1947 and winning its Golden Sheaf Award is a real honour. The festival handed out the first one in 1958.
The InsideOut 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival launches on May 25 and runs until June 4 and the Calgary Black Film Festival runs from May 26 to 29.
If we missed your film festival, we’d love to hear from you. It’s a free listing.
Also see: March Film Festivals, April Film Festivals, May Film Festivals.
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.