April 24, 2024

BY JOY STRUTHERSjsfilmfestival2

The opening night of the 10th annual Grand River Film Festival at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge brought a serious issue to the attention of the community, the problem of homelessness.

The film Lowdown Tracks by Shelley Saywell showcased homeless musicians in the Toronto area celebrating their music and expressing their vulnerability.

Juno award-winning musician Lorraine Segato recorded the stories of some of the people she met and helped them to record their music.
She spoke with homeless musicians all over the city, in rooming houses and shelters, on park benches, under bridges and alongside railroad tracks.

The stories of these people are heartbreaking and include their problems with mental health issues, addiction and histories of abuse. At the same time, their talent and the beauty they express through their music is a real gift.

One musician who is featured is Maryanne Epp who started out in Kitchener and ended up travelling all over the country playing music to stay alive. She talked about her depression and some of the experiences she has had. She cried openly while being filmed and says she wants people to learn from what she has lived through.

“Everyone who is homeless has been hurt,” said Epp.

The evening began on Oct. 24 with an introduction by Gayle O’Brien, the MC and a radio host from 107.5, Dave FM, who is a Conestoga College alumnus.

She talked about the work that goes into these type of festivals and her appreciation for the films. She admitted she was not really a film person, but the works she has seen at festivals have affected her emotionally.

“There really is something for everyone,” she said.

The festival was held from Oct. 24-29 at venues across the Region of Waterloo. It featured 13 longer films and showed a number of short ones from the MCAP SHORT shorts competition.

There were guest speakers and panels of directors, film professionals and local interest groups. In addition there were musical performances and gatherings with food and drinks.

Industry sessions provided learning opportunities for filmmakers, so they could meet people and develop their skills.

At the opening night, behind the drawn red curtains on the stage you could hear soft footsteps and scraping chairs, a random clinging of a tambourine and a note from a string instrument.

The Cambridge Symphony Orchestra was in place, and ready to perform.

They played a medley of film-related songs and were led by music director Sabatino Vacca.

The curtains raised for another musical guest after Lowdown Tracks was shown. Singer-songwriter Katt Budd busks for a living and although she has an apartment in Peterborough currently, she was homeless for a number of years. She was not able to care for her own children because of living in poverty, and left home at a young age herself.

“Satan may have sold my soul, but I’d never go, never go home. Yeah Satan may own my soul, but I’d never grow, never grow old,” Budd sang.

Volunteer Jaye Kuntz stressed the importance of this film and said work needs to be done in our community to help.

“Everybody needs to see this once,” said Kuntz.

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