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Trenton film festival to be a “celebration of Canadian film”

By Kayla Haggett [1]

TRENTON – National and local stars alike will get the chance to shine this weekend in the original Hollywood of the North.

This Friday kicks off the first-ever Quinte Canadian FilmFest [2], hosted by Cinema Quinte, where national and local films will be screened at three locations in Trenton: the Centre Theatre, Trenton Town Hall 1861 and the Fiesta Lounge.

The choice of location is fitting, as Trenton got the nickname Hollywood North due to a film studio that opened in the city 100 years ago. According to the Bay of Quinte tourism website [3], over 1,500 silent films were shot at the studio from 1917 to 1934, featuring some of the biggest names in show business at the time.

Joel George, one of the organizers, who works with Cinema Quinte and Prime Focus Productions, says the event has its roots in the Movie Years Today Film Festival, which he started in 2013. The festival showcased local films, and started small with a one-man committee and an afternoon at the Centre Theatre.

“We played eight films that year and five of them were mine,” said George.

Those numbers grew as the years went on, according to George, and by the third year over 25 films were shown, with only one coming from George himself. The number of people involved grew as well, and he said that for this festival there were seven people on the committee.

The idea to expand to a Canadian film festival first came about a year ago, said George.

“We did pretty much everything we could with exclusively local film. It was time to sort of expand out to include Canadian film and bring our local films into that as well.”

The new Quinte Canadian FilmFest will show 37 films; some are local features and shorts, and others are from filmmakers across Canada.

The event is a curated festival, which George explained gave organizers the opportunity to select the films they wanted to see. As the festival isn’t competitive, he said, they weren’t forced to accept every film submitted, but rather were able to tailor the programming to what they wanted to screen.

Diversity played a role in the choice of films, George said, and that he believes it is at the core of Canadian identity.

“Film is a celebration of humanity and people; it’s telling stories. I think it’s really important, when it comes to programming the festival, that we really want to include diverse stories from all different walks of life.”

Films being shown include Weirdos [4], Window Horses [5] and Maliglutit [6]. There are also multiple films by local directors being screened, such as As The Crow Flies by Prince Edward County filmmaker Tess Girard and Ty Conn: My Brother The Outlaw by Belleville filmmakers Andrew and Adam Gray.

Though the rebranded festival will show national films as well this year, George said it’s still important to highlight the work of local filmmakers.

“If they create, we want to celebrate it. We want to do that for our local filmmakers. We want people to feel like they can still do that here, without having to leave and go to the city.”

He’s been advocating the past five years to help educate the community not only on Trenton’s film history, but also on the movie industry’s future in this area. There is untapped potential in the Quinte region, he said, both because of its film heritage and also since the area has a specific look that he thinks would appeal to directors of photography.

“I know that there’s a lot of reasons why film companies would benefit from bringing their work here, creating here and then taking it out to market.”

As for George’s favourite film from the selection, he said there’s a reason he chose Operation Avalanche [7] as the opening film on Friday night. It’s a 2016 film directed by Matt Johnson about two filmmakers who become involved with a government conspiracy to fake the Apollo 11 moon landing.

“It’s just a really intriguing idea, that they’re sort of rewriting history and saying the moon landing was actually fake and making this sort of fake documentary about it,” he said.

Weekend passes to the festival are available for $40, or rush tickets can be purchased 15 minutes before an individual showtime for $8.

The event kicks off with a red carpet event featuring interviews with filmmakers before the screening of Operation Avalanche at 6 p.m. this Friday at the Centre Theatre.