Long live the cinema!
March 9 was an eventful day for the Ottawa film community — the International Film Festival of Ottawa (IFFO) had its opening night at the Ottawa Art Gallery. I had the opportunity to speak with representatives from the festival and watch the screening of Wildhood, a passionate story of hope, family, love, and trust in the Mi’kmaw community.
I spoke with Stephanie Berrington, director of industry programming at the Canadian Film Institute. She spoke about the frustration felt after the pandemic started just two weeks before the inauguration of the IFFO in 2020.
“We had to pull the plug on it entirely. While we were able to do it online in 2021, the real joy of these events is being in person, welcoming people to the space, and getting the community together so this feels very special to finally be back in person!” Berrington said.
She also mentioned how many activities the IFFO offers besides the film viewings. From film preservation seminars to networking events for people in the community, the IFFO has a little bit of everything.
Berrington talked about her excitement for the virtual screen summit on March 18, where anyone who joins will have a chance to network with executives in the industry and potentially give them a pitch, which is particularly good for students that are interested in this industry.
I also spoke with Tom McSorley, the executive director of the IFFO and the Canadian Film Institute. He told me about the year-long procedure implemented to create something as massive as this festival and how this year was a constant struggle, not knowing whether or not the festival was going to happen. His passion for cinematography truly shone in our interview.
I spoke with him about the process of selecting which films to present during the festival.
“It’s like a sifting process where after seeing around 500 films per year, we try to select the ones that we think are the best, the ones that will respond the best with Ottawa audiences, as well as making sure we have a gender balance in directors, cast, and crew, that we have diversity in the film and the staff. Another important factor is whether the film is available,” McSorley explained.
He mentioned the struggles caused by the pandemic in terms of creating art, how difficult it was to connect with people, and how glad he is that technology allowed for this event to carry on.
“We got lucky this year, we got all the titles that we really wanted,” said McSorley.
His passion for the arts permitted this event to carry on, despite every obstacle that occurred.
After the red carpet event, the screening of Wildhood began. Directed by Bretten Hannam, Wildhood explores the life of siblings, Linc and Travis, who after finding out Linc’s mother, who was presumed dead, is still alive, run away from their abusive father in hopes of finding her.
Along the way, they meet Pasmay, who shares Linc’s Mi’kmaw roots and decides to help them in their search. This incredible coming-of-age film of finding love in unsuspecting places captivates audiences’ hearts and souls — this was abundantly clear during the screening. Since its release last year, Wildhood has received nine nominations and six wins, including best feature film at the Atlantic Film Festival in 2021.
The IFFO is ongoing from March 9 to 20 and I highly recommend attending. There is a wide range of short and feature films, as well as ongoing activities for film enthusiasts. Long live the cinema!