December 11, 2018

The Guelph Film Festival 2018 has celebrated another year in the community. The event ran from Nov. 2- 10 and hosted a variety of films. This was the first year Kimber Sider was the artistic director and she was more than happy to explain the process they go through in programming these films.

Guelph Film Festival artistic director Kimber Sider. Photo courtesy of Guelph Film Festival

The festival has always had closed submissions, usually by invitation. But this year it was decided that it would be opened slightly to the public.

“We did our first open submissions, which were actually for kid filmmakers,” Sider said. “So, filmmakers under the age of 11 were able to submit a one- to two-minute documentary and we screened those. Next year, we will fully do online submissions.”

With regard to what they were looking for, the topic of the film had to hit one of the three options.

“Our three areas of programming are social justice, environment and community building,” Sider said. “Community building can be quite broad, in that the documentary does not have to be about community building, but it can connect to aspects of Guelph or the larger Kitchener-Waterloo area. This year we had a film called Pick of the Litter, which was about guide dogs. We programmed that because at University of Guelph we actually train a lot of service dogs, so that was a different tie-in that spoke to community building.”

Advocacy work is another large part of the festival.

“Thankfully, there is now more of a push in the industry for gender parity, production and screening. Our festival [has been] committed to screening at least 50 per cent of films that are by women for quite a few years now. Our board is very conscious [about] where we accept money from and who we associate with. We try to make sure that their ideals and morals match ours, so that we are focused on social justice, the environment and community building,” said Sider. “For me, it is really important that we are promoting filmmakers with diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, ethnicity and how they identify.”

In addition to bringing diversity to the screen, Sider and the festival aim to provide accessibility so that everyone is able to enjoy.

A patron enjoys a festival film in the cozy confines of Guelph’s Tomme Cheese Shop. Photo by Jaime Murdock, Spoke News

“This year we were able to be fully physically accessible. We are exploring other forms of accessibility, but, given our size, it would take a significant grant to make each film fully accessible, as most films do not come with closed captioning or audio description, as both of those things are quite expensive,” Sider said.

“I did my own feature film a few years ago and it cost me more than $2,000 on an hour-long film. But our dream is to be fully accessible to the hearing and visually impaired, as it is difficult for people to go to festivals because of the limitations without closed captioning and audio description. That is something we are exploring further, but we do not have it within our ability at the moment. But we do really focus on the wide representation in the films we are showing and with the people who worked on the films.”

One of the films that showed a lot of diversity and touched on community building was The Strange Sound of Happiness, by Diego Pascal Panarello. It is about a man who is going through a tough time in his life. He has a vision of a very old musical instrument, the mouth harp. He sets off to find his very own mouth harp and to learn to play it under the watchful eye of the best player in the world.

“It was interesting to learn about another culture and their music,” festival goer Sam Burns said about the film.

That particular film was shown at a church, but other films were played at more unique locations.

For example, War and Cheese, a short film by Ben Garfield, was hosted by a local cheese shop in Guelph named Tomme Cheese Shop, where festival fans were able to watch the film and purchase cheese before or after their viewing.

If you missed this event and would like to experience a film festival before the year is up, consider checking out imagineNATIVE, running from Nov. 13-14 at Queen’s Square Gallery in Cambridge. And if you haven’t already read it, Spoke recently posted an editorial about the film industry.

A trailer for The Strange Sound of Happiness is below:

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