Summer Film Festival Roundup
by Staff Editors
(July 11, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Summer began officially 20 days ago so we’re a little late taking a look at some of the Canadian film festivals launching in what remains of July and those scheduled to start in August.
The 6th Annual Weengushk International Film Festival (WIFF) opens in just three days. Running from July 14-16, 2023 on Manitoulin Island, it is an Indigenous-run independent film festival and cultural event with 57 films, five workshops, four musical performances, an opening night gala and an awards event. Led by Artistic Director Dr. Shirley Cheechoo CM, WIFF will include a diverse range of shorts and features from Brazil, New Zealand, US, Malaysia, The Netherlands, French Polynsia and Canada. Notable filmmakers and artists who will be attending the festival include Gail Maurice, Jennifer Podemski, Gary Farmer, and others. For the awards gala on July 16 there will be in person and video presentations to recipients Graham Greene, Keith Secola, Derek Miller, Ryan Reynolds, and more. This year’s theme is youth, celebrating their experiences, journeys and remarkable accomplishments. The opening night films are Bones of Crows by Marie Clements, preceded by Cheechoo’s 1997 Sundance festival premiere and award-winning film, Silent Tears. The Weengushk International Film Festival (WIFF) runs July 14-16.
A new festival, new to us anyway, kicks off its single day run on July 15. Titled The Art of Documentary, it’s an offshoot of the organization with the same name that offers online filmmaking courses. There’s a mixture of shorts and feature documentaries and you won’t miss anything if you want to grab lunch because there’s a 90-minute pause in the schedule just for that purpose. The first-ever Art of Documentary Film Festival takes place at 2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto.
One of the most anticipated events in the annual festival calendar is Montréal’s Fantasia. This is their 27th year and it erupts on July 20th with yet another stunning offering by Québec director Pascal Plante. Les chambres rouges centres on the high-profile case of serial killer Ludovic Chevalier (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos), who has been accused of murdering three young girls and streaming their brutal deaths in the “red rooms” of the Dark Web. The case has just gone to trial and Kelly-Anne (Juliette Gariépy) is obsessed. Every morning she makes her way from her luxurious condo in downtown Montreal to the gates of the Palais de Justice. Snuff: what was once urban legend is now a sordid reality that captures the province’s imagination and inspires a group of devoted, conspiratorial admirers. When reality blurs with her fantasies, Kelly-Anne goes down a dark path to obtain the final piece of the case’s puzzle. The festival notes, Pascal Plante takes “a virtuoso turn towards the true-crime thriller shrouded in horror.” Fantasia runs from July 20 to August 9 and all films will screen exclusively in cinemas around Montreal.
Once again this year the Female Eye Film Festival will offer documentary, feature, experimental, animated, and short films directed by women and female-identifying filmmakers. As in past years there will be a traditional opening ceremony which includes an Indigenous Canadian film. This year it’s an 85-minute documentary titled The Nature of Healing. It is the recounting of history by seven courageous Elders, all survivors of the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ontario, Canada’s first and longest-running Indian residential school. From victims to survivors to activists, their story is one of resistance, resilience, and a healing path. Proceeds from this screening will be donated to the Mohawk Village Memorial Park, located on five acres adjacent to the Mohawk Institute, in commemoration of all the children taken and institutionalized over the course of more than 160 years. The Nature of Healing marks the documentary directorial debut of Faith Leone Howe. The Female Eye is also celebrating a milestone anniversary having reached its 21st edition. It runs July 26 to 30.
Small festivals can be just as important as large festivals. By small, we usually mean festivals that last one or two days or focus on a narrow area of interest, or are based (in terms of population) in small cities and towns. Gimli, Manitoba with a population around 2500 is one example. Always noted for the 1983 incident when an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel yet landed safely at the Gimli Industrial Park Airport. The Gimli International Film Festival, known for the screen it sets up on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, isn’t a drive-in festival, more like a bring-your-own-chair affair. Many of the films on the schedule do screen indoors at the Asper Theatre or the Lutheran Church, to name just two venues, but the important thing is the selection of films and this international festival truly is international. Films range from the Woody Harrelson starer Champions to Soviet Barbara: The Story of Ragnar Kjartansson in Moscow. It tells the story of an event in December 2021 when Icelandic art star Ragnar Kjartansson opened a Russian oligarch’s museum by re-staging the American soap Santa Barbara live just before Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. There are several Indigenous Canadian films on the schedule and some animation too. The Gimli International Film Festival runs from July 26 to 30.
An example of a festival with a narrow interest, the8fest describes itself as a “celebration of small-gauge film.” The8fest runs from July 28 to 30.
As mentioned above, Fantasia continues into August and ends on August 9.
We’ve just added the Montreal First Peoples Film Festival to our August Festivals page. Described as a celebration of “excellence of Aboriginal cinema” from here and around the world, the festival will be screening “films in competition, of all genres and categories.” The opening night feature is Twice Colonized (still image above). Seven years in the making and directed by Danish director Lin Alluna, Twice Colonized centres on renowned Greenlandic Inuit lawyer, activist, and fierce protector of her ancestral lands, Aaju Peter, who has led a lifelong fight for the rights of her people. When her son suddenly dies, Aaju embarks on a journey to reclaim her language and culture after a lifetime of whitewashing and forced assimilation as she fights for the human rights of Indigenous people of the Arctic, working to bring her colonizers in Canada and Denmark to justice. Aaju Peters will be attending the festival and the screening,
Truly international in nature, these few titles are representative of the scope of this festival: We are Guardians, about the native rangers who risk their lives to protect the integrity of the Amazon rainforest; Life of Ivanna is an unabashed documentary about the harsh reality of a single-parent Nenetse woman in the Siberian tundra; Mamá by Xun Sero (Mexico) features a young Tzotzil filmmaker in an engaging dialogue with her mother; Mahana, the feature film that marked Lee Tamahori’s return to his homeland, will be presented at the NFB’s Alanis-Obomsawin Hall on August 10th. And the closing film, The Doctrine, presented in an advanced but unfinished version in the presence of director Gwendolen Cates, recounts the infamous Doctrine of Discovery, first promulgated by a pope, which then inspired colonial law right up to the present day. The Montreal First Peoples Film Festival runs August 8 to 17.
August also brings is the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. This is their 35th year and offers its schedule in-theatre and online throughout British Columbia. It kicks off with a shorts program, five films ranging from 9-minutes to 15-minutes makes up about an hour of viewing followed by the Opening Night Party after the screening. The Vancouver Queer Film Festival runs from August 10 to 10.
A quick note looking ahead to September: The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has announced the seven animated feature films that have been selected for this year’s Official Competition. They are:
Adam change lentement (When Adam Changes) (dir. Joël Vaudreuil, Canada)
Interdit aux chiens et aux Italiens (No Dogs or Italians Allowed) (dir. Alain Ughetto, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal)
Knit’s Island (dirs. Quentin L’helgoualc’h, Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse, France)
Linda Veut Du Poulet ! (Chicken for Linda!) (dirs. Chiara Malta, Sébastien Laudenbach, France, Italy)
Müanyag Égbolt (White Plastic Sky) (dirs. Tibor Bánóczki, Sarolta Szabó, Hungary, Slovakia)
Nayola (dir. José Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal, France, Belgium, Netherlands)
Unicorn Boy (dir. Matt Kiel, United States)
OIAF runs from September 20 to September 24.
We’ll take a long, more detailed look at September, which includes the largest film festival in Canada, TIFF. The 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival takes place September 7–17, 2023.
Don’t see your festival listed? Email us at email@example.com. Our free listings will end later this year.