September 29, 2020

BY CARSON DESHEVY-RENOUF

On Nov. 3, the Grand River Film Festival will showcase unique Canadian films in Waterloo Region, once again bringing both community members and film lovers together.

Since 2007, when film producer Ken Nakamura moved to Cambridge and decided that the area needed a film festival, every fall has seen GRFF bring the community together.

Now going into its 8th year, the festival runs for a week and consists of an opening gala, at which the first film is screened, followed by a full week of film screenings alongside the SHORT Shorts short film competition. All of this leads up to a closing gala, award show and the screening of one last documentary.

The festival is set up so that you aren’t just showing up and watching films, however. There is much more to it than that.

“When you come to a screening there is something else attached to it, whether it is a presentation or there is a Q&A with the film’s director. (Whether) there is an opening/closing gala or a party attached to it, there is always something else,” said Tamara Louks, executive director of GRFF.

And, according to Louks, this is why the film festival is much more engaging than just going to your local movie theatre.

Unlike a regular theatre experience, the films screened at the festival may never be seen in a big name movie theatre, and this helps those who attend to broaden their horizons in respects to movie experiences. There is also ample opportunity for people to gather, talk and learn about a variety of things, not just films and their production.

“You can (go to a theatre or) sit at home and watch any movie you want on TV or your iPad or anything like that. But to come out to the GRFF where there is an engaging Q&A afterwards or people gather together afterwards and talk about the film … I have seen some really great connections being made,” Louks said.

The festival will host a wide range of high profile guests to go along with the films. Director Chiemi Karasawa will be coming all the way from New York for a Q&A for the opening gala following the screening of her documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, that will kick off the festival. Canadian award-winning actress Jennifer Dale from Toronto will MC the opening gala and moderate the Q&A with Karasawa. As well, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, “a Palestinian physician and an internationally recognized human rights and inspirational peace activist” and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, will be speaking during the closing gala.

The festival, according to the official website, defines itself by the mission statement: “To celebrate and inspire community through the shared experience of film.” So the community as a whole is invited to share in the experience that is the festival, with films ranging from documentaries to comedies to shorts.

GRFF will run from Nov. 3 to 8, with the opening gala and most films being screened at Landmark Cinema in Kitchener. The closing gala and final documentary, Sepideh, will be held at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge.

You can buy tickets online at www.grff.ca.

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