May 30, 2024

Stories that matter will be screened across Guelph this month, sparking conversations about how to impact society and change the world. 

From Nov. 4 to 26 the Guelph Film Festival presents local and international films in-person and online about social justice and environmental activism.  

Festival operations director Steve D’Alimonte says people should attend because of the important nature of the content. D’Alimonte says the films are all new and relevant to 2022, covering issues like climate change, racism, and implications of social media. 

The documentaries tell stories from diverse perspectives about social and environmental movements that illustrate the value of voice and agency. These films “invite us to think more deeply about the world,” says the Guelph Film Festival website. “Sharing stories that matter is at the heart of what we do.” 

This year, people under 30 can attend the festival in-person for free. D’Alimonte says there has been a drop in younger audiences over the last few years, so they are offering the free admission with hope they “will get in some younger blood to the festival, to get young people excited about important documentaries.”

Regular tickets for screenings range from $5 to $20, with the option to pay what you can.  Tickets can be purchased through the showpass website and at the door of each screening. 

The films will be screened at a variety of “fully accessible” venues in Guelph, listed on the festival website, including Planet Bean cafe, who have a longstanding relationship with the Guelph Film Festival. 

Planet Bean founder Bill Barrett has personally been involved with the festival since its launch in 1984, when he first volunteered. “I was just finishing high school and they needed someone to operate the projector, it was a 16 mm,” remembers Barrett, “so I’ve been there since the very beginning.” 

This year Planet Bean will be screening a world premiere of ABC’s of Anxiety. The short film will be played on a loop during the coffee shop’s business hours from Nov. 4 to Nov. 12. The monitor will be visible from inside and outside the venue and headphones will be available for viewers to come in and check out the mini doc. 

A detailed schedule of in-person and online screenings is available through the festival website. D’Alimonte highlights the “community talk-backs” that follow most screenings and curate “engaged conversations” about the films’ themes. 

Barrett says “the discussion afterward, the interaction that happens, is often more enlightening than the films. I mean the films are great but the reflections upon them when you’re in a group is better.”

Image designed by Gareth Lind and provided to Spoke by the Guelph Film Festival.

A Few Films Featured 

The festival kicks off with a spotlight screening of And Still I Sing, about Afghan pop star Aryana Syeed during the Taliban’s rise to power. This screening is at the Guelph Youth Music Centre at 7:30 on Nov. 4, co-presented by CFRU-FM. Director Fazila Amiri will lead a discussion following the film. 

Local children created documentaries for Tiny Docs By Tiny People. This screening is at 10C on Nov. 6 at 11:30 a.m. and is followed by a meet and greet with “local kid filmmakers.”  

Community hub 10C is hosting another screening later that afternoon. Uyra – The Rising Forest follows a trans Indigenous artist’s journey through the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The screening is at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 and is presented with support from OPIRG Guelph. 

That evening Returning Home will be screened at the Art Gallery of Guelph at 7:30 p.m., followed by discussion led by director Sean Stiller. This film tells two stories; one about Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad and one about the impact of dropping salmon numbers on the Secwépemc Nation, whose unceded ancestral lands include the city of Kamloops, B.C.

Guelph’s Black Heritage Society is supporting the screening of Dear Jackie at Heritage Hall on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. After the film is a discussion with director Henri Pardo. This film centres professional baseball player Jackie Robinson in Montreal’s Little Burgundy.

The last day of the in-person festival includes three hard hitting documentaries about environmental activism and a trans woman’s struggle to access gender-affirming healthcare.

Nov. 12 begins with To The End, screened at the Guelph Civic Museum at 11:30 a.m. and followed by a community discussion with local youth activists. The film tells the story of four young BIPOC women whose activism impacted US climate politics. 

The museum hosts a second documentary at 2:30 p.m., covering the Indigenous led movement to protect the Fairy Creek old growth forest in B.C. This screening is an Ontario Premiere of Rematriation w/ Pappy’s Garden, directed by Alexi Liotti. 

The final film is Framing Agnes, a historic documentary set in Las Angeles in 1958 and featuring a cast of trans actors, screened at the Guelph Youth Music Centre at 7:30 p.m. Following the screening is discussion with director Chase Joynt. 

From Nov. 13 to 26 the festival continues online, where films can be screened from home. Prices for online viewings start at $7 with the option to pay what you can. 

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