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Cinéfest Sudbury film festival kicks off on Saturday

The 33rd edition of the Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival kicks off on Saturday and festival organizers are excited to welcome audiences back to the theatre.

This year’s lineup is bigger and better than ever with more than 150 film screenings offered in-person and online via the festival’s virtual platform as part of Cinéfest’s hybrid model.

The festival will welcome a number of special guests including All My Puny Sorrows director Michael McGowan, who will attend the Opening Night Gala.

It was recently announced that all audiences attending the festival in-person from Sept. 18 to 26 must be fully vaccinated as per the Ontario government’s new vaccination guidelines.

Cinéfest Sudbury said that it is happy to accommodate anyone who cannot attend in-theatre film screenings by giving them access to virtual tickets or providing them with a full refund.

“Speaking on behalf of my colleagues here, we’re thrilled about the lineup, and we’re thrilled that we are able to provide an environment to experience the festival whether it’s from home as part of the hybrid model or whether it’s in theatre,” said Patrick O’Hearn, managing director at Cinéfest Sudbury.

“It’s taken a lot of work, but it’s really paying off and we’re seeing a lot of great excitement from our audience, so we can’t wait to get started.”

Cinéfest Sudbury will follow public health guidelines to ensure the safety of its staff and patrons.

All in-theatre festival screenings will be subject to assigned seating, and patrons are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance.

The festival has also decided to make vaccination mandatory for the duration of the event.

“With the requirements coming into effect halfway through our festival, we just thought it would be best for everybody if we created a consistent environment where we wouldn’t have one set of guidelines for the first half of the festival and a separate set of guidelines for the second half,” said O’Hearn.

“This creates a lot more predictability in terms of what people can expect.”

When patrons arrive at the theatre, they will be required to present proof of vaccination and government-issued photo ID.

“It’s required that they are fully vaccinated plus 14 days as per the guidelines that will come into effect on Sept. 21,” said O’Hearn.

Festival staff will be available to speak with patrons on how to access their vaccine receipts if assistance is required and anyone with questions is encouraged to contact Cinéfest Sudbury directly.

Despite the new guidelines, O’Hearn said that the response this year has been incredible.

“We have a lot of people coming out. It’s still not going to look like 2019, but we’re getting closer,” he said.

“We have more in-person experiences and more Q&As with filmmakers that are pre-recorded, so there’s more opportunities to learn about filmmaking. We really looked at last year and asked ourselves how we could grow the event.”

Part of the festival’s expansion included the introduction of a new awards program. Filmmakers have the chance to win up to $15,000 for outstanding films in various categories.

“There’s a lot of clamouring for the awards and our video submissions were up about 30 per cent this year,” said O’Hearn.

“That’s incredible, especially in the middle of a pandemic.”

No matter how audiences decide to participate in this year’s festival, Cinéfest Sudbury has an extensive lineup in store.

“Our lineup is solid across the board. There is so much to choose from,” said O’Hearn.

“I am so impressed with the perseverance everyone has shown. They’ve been able to make really amazing films in really challenging circumstances. There’s really something for everyone.”

The festival’s opening night gala will feature the film All My Puny Sorrows directed by Michael McGowan.

Based on the international best-selling novel by Miriam Toews, the film tells the story of two Mennonite sisters who have left their strict religious upbringing behind.

While one becomes a world-famous concert pianist obsessed with ending her life, the other, a writer, wrestles with her life choices while making profound discoveries about herself.

McGowan has had several films screen at Cinéfest over the years, including Saint Ralph in 2004, One Week as the Saturday Night Gala in 2008, Score: A Hockey Musical as the Opening Night Gala in 2010, and Still Mine as the Saturday Night Gala in 2012.

All My Puny Sorrows was filmed in North Bay.

“McGowan is an incredibly accomplished filmmaker and he’s always so gracious with his time – he’s a really nice guy,” said O’Hearn.

“He meets with our audience when he’s in town, and it’s something he gets extremely excited about, so we’re thrilled to have him here representing the film All My Puny Sorrows.”

The film Big Giant Wave directed by Marie-Julie Dallaire will also be screened on Saturday.

“This is a wonderful documentary about music, and it’s somewhat experimental but it never feels intimidating. The director has done a great job of crafting a great art film that really takes you inside music,” said O’Hearn.

On Sunday, audiences will have the chance to see Charlotte, an animated film directed by Tahir Rana and Éric Warin.

“This is another film that has done well at festivals around the world. This is in-person only, but it takes a look at an amazing painter who was painting during World War Two,” said O’Hearn.

“She is Jewish, and she’s caught up in the uprising of the Nazis and the impacts of the war. It’s great from an animation standpoint, but you also get a great sense of the richness of the work that she created and that she left behind.”

Also screening on Sunday is The Electrical Life of Louis Wain directed by Will Sharpe.

“This is another one that everyone is talking about – this is our gala on Sunday. Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic in this film and it’s really garnering a lot of attention,” said O’Hearn.

Kicking Blood directed by Blaine Thurier will wrap up the weekend’s film screenings.

“This was filmed here in the City of Greater Sudbury. It’s a great new take on the vampire film. It looks at addiction, and it’s a really nuanced film that sets up Sudbury as this great, gothic atmosphere,” said O’Hearn.

Monday night’s gala film is called Official Competition. Directed by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, this film stars Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.

“I think we’re going to see this film come Academy Award season because it’s a lot of fun,” said O’Hearn.

“When Cruz and Banderas have gotten together before, they made amazing films, and this is another example of some great actors that collaborate extremely well together.”

O’Hearn said that a number of this year’s galas and special presentations are taking place virtually in addition to over 20 Q&As with filmmakers.

“Because our event takes place in that really hectic and exciting festival season, it’s not often possible to attract all the talent we want to in-person,” said O’Hearn.

“This virtual environment allows us to bring in as much talent as we’re able to. There are a ton of events and a ton of ways to experience the festival this year.”
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