SJIWFF25 – TUESDAY!

Hello, Internet, it’s Wednesday, October 15th – and let me tell you about my Tuesday at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

8:55AM: Arrive at the LSPU Hall. Let in the keenest volunteers ever. Sweep and tidy the beautifully decorated second space for “Registration & Delegate Welcome.”

From what I can tell, staff & volunteers essentially set up camp all day while delegates (ie: filmmakers and industry representatives) and volunteers dropped in to pick up their passes, schedules, swag and the like. It was a fascinating day to be in the building; folks from all over the country were turning up, along with a huge stock of familiar faces. Just a little demonstration of how much this festival does to bring the national and international film community together with NL film artists.

9AM – 5 PM: Headless chicken dance at the box office. Seriously. It. Was. Bonkers.

Yes, since I am spending a total of 28 hours at the box office this week, I will write about it. I will try to keep that to a minimum to provide more space for talking about films. But for now, here is a super-fast list of things I wish everyone who came by this week knew (and therefore, maybe, if you’re reading this, you will know it):

1) Passes are available right till the end of the festival, and they are worth the money if you are seeing 7 or more screenings or going to 5 or more industry forum events. In fact, they’re a wicked deal.

2) No, your pass will not get you into anything that’s sold out. Sorry.

3) You have to physically have a pass in order to get into things that aren’t at the LSPU Hall (and, honestly, we’d love it if you had it there, too). They look like this:

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If what you have doesn’t look like that, we have a pass for you to pick up at the Hall – please come get it.

Right. Back to the day.

5:15PM: Arrive home. Write introductory blog post. Put on pretty dress.

7:15PM: Arrive at the Arts & Culture Centre, which looks like this, so good job there:

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The parking lot was already full at the time – 45 minutes before the screening was to begin – so I can only imagine that parking was a bit of an issue for many involved. This is a good sign, though, really, since this festival continues to grow, and people continue to come out to support it.

These awesome ladies look great in their volunteer t-shirts and were smiling greeters in the lobby.

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7:20PM: Had a glass of wine, much needed after the crazed day at the box office. Sighed a sigh of relaxation.

7:40PM: Ran into Ross Moore, fellow blogger. You can check out his account of last night at his blog here. Hi Ross! *wave*

7:55PM: Herded into the theatre by repeated ringing of The Bell, although, from what I could tell, everyone was getting in there as fast as they could.

8:00PM: Speeches. So many speeches.

Noreen Golfman, founder and chair of the board, acted as MC. A whole bunch of funders spoke, both the corporate and the public, and if I could sum up about half an hour of speeches (approximate time… my phone was off) into two points, they would be that a) the fact that this festival has taken on its current life over 25 years is remarkable, and due to the dedication of thousands of hours of volunteer time; and b) the film industry in this province has a return on investment ratio of 3:1 and it’s in our best interest to invest in it.

(Not to get too political here, but that second thing was a bit of a tough pill to swallow from the Minister of the newly formed Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development: the amalgamation of the two sections of the provincial government that had been most likely to fund the arts. I am personally pretty pessimistic about the likelihood that the dollar amount of arts funding will be maintained, let alone increased, under this new department, and I call upon the government to practice what they preach and continue to give the arts industry the financial attention that it deserves.

And now, back to yesterday evening…)

8:30ish: October Gale

You can read the blurb here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I knew absolutely nothing about this film before it started. Until Sunday, I had been running a show that I wrote, directed and produced (see past blogs if you’re interested), and spent Monday recovering from the shock to the system that 4 weeks of that kind of work can entail. This might actually be the schtick to this week of blogging, actually – I will go in knowing nothing, and you can read what I think of it from that perspective.

October Gale features the absolutely marvelous Patricia Clarkson as Helen, a recent widow and current doctor who goes out to her late husband’s Georgian Bay cottage to open it up for the season. The portrayal of her grief, in the form of cleaning out the fridge, lighting a fire, and tidying his things, interspersed with moments of extreme tenderness in her memory, is totally gorgeous, though I admit that around the 15-minute mark I was praying that this not turn out to be a movie about a woman who is sad.

My prayers were answered when William, played by Scott Speedman (to whom the literature around this film does a disservice by describing him as gorgeous when it should be describing him as talented) crawls bleeding into her living room and passes out on the floor. Helen removes the bullet from his shoulder and allows him to recover on her couch. Over the next few scenes, the movie gradually changes from a character drama to a mobster movie, featuring Tim Roth as the chief baddie. Overall a strange shift, but Clarkson’s genius in her complete transition from stagnant grief to survival instinct is enough to carry us through it.

The rest of the evening was a grand time, with music by The Fortunate Ones and chats with many a local filmmaker. A great launch for the festival, and a fitting celebration of the 25th anniversary.

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Congratulations to the (extremely good-looking) team on a lovely launch. I can’t wait for the rest!

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