Story by Lynn Burshtein
HAMILTON, ONTARIO – It’s inevitable that the Toronto International Film Festival would eclipse much of the fanfare surrounding the province’s other festivals and events.
Each year A-listers like Brad, George, Kate and Meryl and a host of others make the trek to TIFF to promote whichever Oscar contender is premiering. The high-profile festival, combined with the fact that the city is also a popular location for feature film shoots, has earned Toronto its nickname of “Hollywood North.”
But TIFF isn’t the only Ontario film festival to attract attention in the industry. Over the past twenty-five years, Sudbury’s Cinefest has experienced steady growth and is now a full-service film organization dedicated to promote Canadian filmmakers (especially those in Northern Ontario). Another city that has attracted increased attention from the industry is Hamilton. The city has long been a desirable location for shoots; dozens of Hollywood features have been shot there (most recently, the horror film Crimson Peak). But more recently, the Hamilton Film Festival (Nov 2 – 8th) which showcases both local and international filmmakers (with a heavy emphasis on domestic talent) has received serious acclaim.
Hamilton welcomes 150 films
Indeed, 2015 marks a particularly special year for the festival as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. Between November 2 and 8, over 150 films will screen across the city in 8 venues. Dubbed “Film Week”, the Festival kicks off with a red carpet Gala at the historic Staircase Theatre, followed by a choice of screenings – the Rainbow Kid (a Toronto film) or Autumn Blood from Australia. Other films include “There Should Be Rules, Wrecker and Tom in America.
There are a number of high-profile premieres, including 7 Days in Syria, a documentary which centres on a Newsweek journalist’s experience reporting on the country, and which comes recommended by Brad’s better half. “It’s not often you get a film submitted with a letter of recommendation from Angelina Jolie-Pitt”, says Nathan Fleet, festival director. Indeed, of the growing profile of the festival, Fleet adds: “We don’t spend as much time looking for films. The 10th Annual Hamilton Film Festival is now attracting movies from all over the world.”
Several Hamilton-made films set to premiere
But there is still a strong commitment to local works. There are approximately 40 Hamilton-made, juried-selected films set to premiere, including a documentary on Hamilton rock band The Reason, If It’s Not Something It’s Something Else, which will close the festival along with a panel featuring the band members and the film’s director. In addition, Fall (starring the city’s own Wendy Crewson), about an aging Catholic priest coming to terms with his controversial past, has received several nominations for industry awards, will make its debut, also with a panel discussion to follow. There is also the crowd-funded The Bad Mother, directed by David James Fernandes and Sarah Kapoor, which was also shot and produced in Hamilton.
This is just a sampling of the films set to premiere. The rest of the schedule is rounded out with a variety of dramas, comedies, animated films, horror, action, and LGBTQ-focused films, among other genres. There are also some exciting add-on events including a panel discussion with Technical Achievement Academy Award winner Colin Doncaster as well as the debut Hamilton Film Expo on November 7 at the Spice Factory (where SFX displays and a Cosplay event will be featured).
And it’s important to remember that Hamilton is a year-round cultural destination in its own right, with a great art gallery and art crawls. Accessible and easy to get around, you can also spend time visiting the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens, or strolling down charming Locke Street where you can grab a bite at Chuck’s Burger Bar or eat “earth to table fare” at the Bread Bar. As to where to crash after a busy day of activities, the centrally-located Visitors Inn is clean with friendly service, has a good breakfast menu and a great indoor pool for those with a bit of downtime – all for a fraction of the price of a downtown Toronto hotel room during TIFF.
The spotlight will be on Hamilton during the film festival, but the vibe is decidedly down-to-earth. This may be a welcome change of pace for fans of film looking for a homegrown festival experience.
MORE ABOUT HAMILTON FILM FESTIVAL
Dates: Film Week in Hamilton will be Nov 2 – 8th, 2015
Schedule and Tickets: http://hamiltonfilmfestival.weebly.com/schedule–tickets.html