by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
Between a near limitless amount of star power behind the lineup and a series of new initiatives at the ready, this year’s Windsor International Film Festival will return not only with an overwhelming degree of cinematic options, but will also carry a few new tricks up its sleeve.
Details on the festival’s 12th year were under full disclosure on the morning of Oct. 13 at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts’ Chrysler Theatre. Over 20,000 tickets are projected to be sold once the festival begins its run from Nov. 1 to 6, where over 100 feature and documentary films will be screened over a six day period between the Capitol and Chrysler Theatre, with the latter being the latest addition to the event as a venue.
With the programming growing with each passing season, this particular year comes in the wake of WIFF being declared the second largest volunteer run film festival in Canada. As a result of defined scope, a slew of new features will be making their way onto the festival, which will range from more comfortable seating to the inclusion of virtual reality experiences and social lounges in partnership with the City Grill.
Viewing WIFF as a community celebration, Executive Director Vincent Georgie believes the new features will be welcomed with open arms.
“Reactions so far when I’m talking to people about these new initiatives, they’re really excited by it and we can scale them up or scale them down, but I think we’re pretty good,” Georgie said.
Upon examining WIFF by the numbers, it’s easy to see its continual expansion. This year will have 107 films screened compared to 90 in 2015. There will be 161 screenings compared to last year’s 137. Over 20 countries will be represented, from Canada and USA to China and India. Over 45 films selected were shopped from the Toronto International Film Festival, and 29 of the films in the line-up will be screened prior to their Canadian national release.
“They’ve got it ahead of time, ahead of the curve,” Georgie said. “In some cases they’re watching some of these films six months to a year before it comes to theaters.”
There will also be five virtual reality experiences, 15 Francophone films and two live reads of film scripts ‘Juno’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’. Not last and certainly not least however, is the screening of a live documentary, which will include a film being deconstructed and reconstructed in the middle of the screening.
Directed by local filmmaker and UWindsor film professor Kim Nelson, ‘The 130 Year Road Trip’ will follow history professor Rob Nelson as he retraces a story of a German’s expedition to Canada during the 1880s. Nelson says the screening will come with a live music and narration accompaniment, where clips will be added in and taken out in a real-time editing process to create a dynamic viewing experience. Nelson however is taking it one step further by adding in a participatory element through encouraging comments and questions from the audience, something which she says hasn’t been done before.
“The omnipotence basically is to take the idea of interactive documentaries that are online, to where we open it up as a live human experience where people can ask anything and we just have to deal with it in the moment,” Nelson said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, so it’s kind of without safety nets, unlike a regular film or an interactive documentary.”
Nelson’s film is set to be screened Nov. 2 at the Capitol’s Kelly Theatre. The Windsor part of WIFF looks to be maintained as 22 films will be among the local programming for this year. One film in particular will be screened as part of its 10th anniversary.
‘Things to Do’ was a buddy comedy film co-developed by UWindsor communication and film graduates Ted Bezaire and Michael Stasko. While it was the first film they had produced, it was subjected to strong reception and national distribution, playing on channels such as The Movie Network and CHCH. While Stasko hasn’t seen the film in roughly nine years, he found one of the biggest developments as a filmmaker early on was in screening his work in front of a genuine audience.
“We also edited the film, and you get used to the footage over and over again, but as soon as you see it in front of a live audience, that’s when you can really learn a lot and grow as a filmmaker and see the ebbs and flows of people laughing,” Stasko said. “You start to realize that a film kind of really only exists when it’s being shown to someone.”
The opening film of the festival will be ‘Maudie’, which stars Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins. The closing film will star Vera Farmiga and Jacob Tremblay in ‘Burn Your Maps’. In between those two, there’s Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Elle’, the critically acclaimed ‘Manchester by the Sea’, the pitch-black comedy ‘War on Everyone’ and the midnight madness features will include ‘The Room’ once again as well as ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Space Jam’.
With the event growing year after year, WIFF has become an annual downtown mainstay. However if there’s one objective Georgie has in mind beyond breaking 20,000 ticket sales, it’s to get more people to attend who haven’t attended in the past.
“For many of our audience this is our 12th year or 10th year, but I always get jazzed when someone comes and says this is my first time,” Georgie said. “That I think is special. Reminds you why you do it in the first place.”
More information, as well as a full listing of films and their schedules can be found on the Windsor International Film Festival’s website.