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Logo: OCan Film Fest.
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Ottawa festival allows for live filmmaker and audience interaction

The Ottawa Canadian Film Festival (OCan22) marked its first year at ByTowne Cinema from Nov. 3–5, 2022. It outgrew its old venue at Arts Court with hopes to fill every one of the 650 seats at Bytowne Cinema.

The Fulcrum spoke with Blair Campbell, independent movie producer and co-founder of OCan. Alongside Jith Paul, Campbell identified a shortage of film festivals showing Canadian films to a general audience.

“The purpose six years ago is really the same purpose we have today, we recognize that there was a ton of really talented independent filmmakers in Ottawa and through Canada. And we wanted to create an opportunity to have their films shown to a broader audience,” said Campbell. “What I mean is there always have been festivals, but they tend to be sort of niche festivals, like, one might focus on let’s say, horror films or something might focus on something else. And we wanted to create a kind of festival that anyone would treat as a general audience, where they can see a wide selection.”

This year, the festival screened 12 films narrowed down from a list of 210 submissions. Of the films being shown, a record seven of the filmmakers were in attendance. Campbell noted how festivals allow “an artist to experience an audience seeing their film, and getting direct feedback from that.”

Being a producer himself, Campbell said the artist-audience interaction is a very important part of the filmmaking process.

“You don’t really see that if you go to a commercial film. It’s not like, you know, Stanley Kubrick is gonna walk through the door and say, ‘hello, everyone,’ you know, especially since he’s dead, but that aside, that’s not going to happen.”

Finally, Campbell touched on bringing back the in-person version of the festival after two years of running it virtually throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Before talking about what he was looking forward to regarding this year’s festival, Campbell reflected on virtual festivals having “one advantage, the reach … is unlimited, because literally anyone in the world can watch your festival. I mean, when we tracked our viewers, we did have people signing in from Europe.”

That said, Campbell is glad viewers were able to come back to the theatre this year to enjoy films together rather than everyone streaming from home, after noticing streaming burnout in viewers during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ottawa Canadian Film Festival closed last night with a showing of “Baduk,” directed by Induk Lee, and “Tehranto,” directed by Faran Moradi.