I’ve got a group of friends who go to so see movies together every week. They’ve been doing it for years. They’ll go to the theatre if something good’s playing or they’ll just go to one of their houses and choose a cool flick. I used to wonder why they made such a conscious effort to see films in a big group all the time. And then I went to the Scenic City Film Festival last year and I understood.
No one really likes to watch anything alone (unless it’s Game of Thrones, then I turn my phone off and lock all the doors and pray no one bothers me). But people want to watch movies together so they can talk about it after, have a beer and listen to other opinions and theories. I remember how cool it was to hear other people’s reactions to movies like Donnie Darko, Inception, and Lost Highway. They were all so different from my own.
I think it’s pretty simple. It’s human to want to discuss something you’ve just collectively experienced with others. Plus, you get to see a bunch of films that aren’t accessible anywhere but on the festival circuit, so there’s a feeling of privilege involved.
But, in the end film festivals are just plain fun.
When I attended SCFF last year with a friend, we sat and chatted for awhile about the films that caught our attention, one of which was the winner of the Best Local Film Award, Jory Lyons’ AKA Brokentooth. (See our interview with Lyons here). There were others that we discussed as well, including Dorothy’s Secret about an elderly woman reflecting on a life spent as a prostitute; and local young filmmaker, Dalton Follis’ short piece on the local graffiti scene driven by Billy Goodkat.
This year, SCFF has put together another full weekend of events that’ll put us in awe of the local talent in this area and expose us to some new cultural experiences from across the world. Actually, scratch that – it’s more than a weekend. There’s going to be a week-long build up to the event using the old Bingo Hall to screen a dusk-til-dawn video installation by local artist William Andrew Finlay Stewart. Now, that sounds pretty f—ing cool!
“We’re still a young festival in that the SCFF is developing its fan base and its place in the artistic community” says Nelson Phillips, one of the people behind the Scenic City Film Festival. Together with Mike Dyer and Wendel Brooks, they have been promoting film in the Owen Sound area, including a presence at the annual Summerfolk Festival this past summer where they screened RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World and a curated shorts program.
His festival is a bit different than what people might imagine when they think of a film fest “There’s a stigma about film that we’d like to challenge, which says people have to be quiet and sit still during a screening” he says. “It’s an unorthodox event in that it’s a film fest held in a watering hole.” Most of the festival takes place at Heartwood Hall, which functions as a concert hall and bar, with many local craft beers available. “Giving people the chance to have a couple beers with friends takes the formality away from a cinema setting – it makes film and art much more attainable” Phillips argues.
Friday night is the Grub Crawl with a spread of locally inspired hors d’oeurves and Black Bellows beer (see our interview with Black Bellows here ). This all leads up to a Heartwood Hall screening of feature length film A Ghost Story staring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.
I’ve been looking forward to this film for awhile. It’s been described as “a film unlike anything else you’ll see this year” by Empire, but I might be more excited for the food. The ones creating the ‘grub’ are Chef Zach Keeshig and Cody Hawes, two local chefs whose focus is ‘locally inspired’ plates. I’ve heard great things, and will finally get to sample some of their food at the Milk Maid Fine Cheeses and Gourmet Foods next door to the venue. “We’re super stoked for the culinary aspect of the festival this year…Zach and Cody are two of the best in the area. We’re very grateful to have them on board this year” says Phillips.
And that’s just Friday night. Saturday is the main event, the Mayweather vs Mcgregor, the night when we get to see all the cool short films and see who wins. The Short Film Program and Cask Beer Event will bring local breweries Black Bellows, Macleans, and Collingwood Brewery together to kick off a Happy Hour at 5pm followed by some sweet-sounding jazz at 6pm from the Mike Lewis Trio, with Mark Mariash on drums and Jack McFadden on stand up bass. The city of Owen Sound is in on the action this year, sponsoring the Cask Event through the Corkscrew City initiative, which is a really cool project that, among other things, hosts walking tours of the city to highlight the storied history of suds and prohibition, and all the “Saints and Sinners” the town has seen.
Then the films will begin. You’ll have your underdogs, your heavy hitters, your local favourites, your cerebral brain-teasers, and your emotional heart-string pullers. But in the end, it will be the conversations you have with others that will stand out. It’s the reason we go to film festivals, after all.
So get your tickets: you’ve got the ‘grub’ and A Ghost Story on Friday, and beer and binge-ing on short films Saturday. Take your pick or better yet, do both.
See y’all there movie-lovers.
Written by Jesse Wilkinson