Cinéfest Sudbury is extending an invitation to the local community and beyond to head back to the movie theatre this fall.
The festival is gearing up to launch its full in-theatre and virtual programming when tickets go on sale on Aug. 26.
The 33rdedition of the Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival will take place from Sept. 18 to 26 and it will follow the same hybrid format as last year, but this time with more films and a new awards program.
With the tagline “Let’s all go to the movies,” Cinéfest is once again working to ensure that this year’s diverse selection of film screenings is accessible to all.
“We are thrilled at this opportunity to safely present an expanded lineup of in-theatre screenings this year,” said Tammy Frick, executive director of Cinéfest Sudbury.
“It will be our absolute privilege to welcome back the familiar faces of our dedicated patrons to SilverCity this year while also continuing to offer online screenings accessible from the comfort of home.”
This year’s festival image and promotional materials feature three Canadian beavers riding a bicycle to the movie theatre.
The theme was once again developed by Tony Jurgilas, chief design strategist at 50 Carleton.
“We really needed to lift spirits and more than every bring something fun and optimistic to the mix. Everyone has been chomping at the bit of normalcy,” he said.
“Even something as fundamentally routine as going to the movies now seems like a new exciting adventure. We’ve done some kooky things in the past, but never beavers on bicycles. We hope this brings a chuckle and an inspiration to return to the cinema.”
Frick said that Cinéfest had no clue how to approach the festival theme this year given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but when the team saw Jurgilas’s beavers, they knew that was it.
“Last year we were limited, and this year, we are opening up – how do we get that message out and reengage with audiences?” she said.
“He presented us with this image, and we fell in love. Who doesn’t love Canadian beavers? It just felt right. It felt hopeful and fun and that’s really the tone we’re going for.”
Last year’s film festival was limited to 24 films in-theatre with very restricted seating, but this year, Cinéfest will be able to screen 60 films in theatre with increased seating capacity.
“It will feel more like a film festival. We will have more of the interaction and crowds will be larger, but we will also be maintaining the guidelines around physical distancing and making sure that people coming out feel safe and comfortable in the environment,” said Frick.
“Out of those 60 films, a large majority of them will also be screened virtually plus an additional 45 to 50 films including feature films and shorts. We will have quite a great selection.”
The virtual platform allows the festival to engage the audience that would typically travel to Sudbury in the fall.
“Some people will feel comfortable in doing that this year, but others may still want to stay home. Anyone in Ontario has access to the screening platform,” she said.
Cinéfest is also introducing a new feature film awards program as part of this year’s festival.
Films selected as part of the lineup that meet the eligibility criteria for an award will be considered by a jury of film industry delegates in five new awards categories.
The categories will award Canadian, international, female-led, and French language feature films as well as outstanding talent in the Cinema Indigenized category.
Cash prizes range from $15,000 to $2,500 per category – the community sponsors for this new award program include Desjardins, Vale Canada Ltd., Women in Film & Television Toronto, Laking Toyota, and CTV Northern Ontario.
“We put a lot of thought in moving beyond COVID-19. We know our audience base is there – they are extremely loyal. Our virtual platform did exceptionally well last year. We expect that from them again this year,” she said.
“We wanted to make sure that we’re constantly bringing in top quality films, and we thought an awards program would help with industry engagement.”
The Cinéfest Sudbury film festival is unique because the films screened at the festival are in pre-release.
“There’s only a handful of festivals across Canada that have access to pre-release films, and because of that, we thought by introducing an awards program, we will be a step ahead of some of the festivals our size. It makes it more attractive for filmmakers,” said Frick.
“Highlighting the formidable success stories in Canadian and international filmmaking has always been a priority of Cinéfest and this expanded awards program will help to further promote the exceptional films being created and diverse stories being told.”
The festival extends its thanks to new and returning festival sponsors, including Cineplex Entertainment, Agilis Networks, Milestones and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
It also extends gratitude to its government partners, Telefilm Canada and the Ontario Arts Council, whose support contributes to the festival’s ongoing success.
“Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival would like to thank all of its dedicated sponsors who, with their combined and ongoing support, are sustaining a world-class cultural entertainment event that significantly enhances the profile of the City of Greater Sudbury,” said a press release.
The festival will announce its fall programming during a virtual media conference when tickets go on sale on Aug. 26. Patrons are invited to attend the reveal of the Cinéfest 2021.
Following the conference, tickets will go on sale online at www.cinefest.comand through the Cinéfest box office at 40 Larch Street, Suite 103 in Sudbury.
Audiences are encouraged to visit Cinéfest’s website or call 705-688-1234 if they have questions about tickets, film programming, or using the virtual platform.
A live chat feature will be also available on their website to answer audience questions as of Aug. 26.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star