Powell River is known for its festivals and cultural events, however, once the winter holiday season is over, there is a lull, according to Powell River Film Festival executive director Gary Shilling. But that changes when the 18th annual film festival kicks off on Friday, February 8.
“I like to think of it as the winter festival for Powell River,” said Shilling. “There are so many things happening in the summertime, but once you pass Christmas, not a lot of stuff happens in January and February.”
The festival gives viewers the opportunity to get out and be social while taking in some world-class movies, he added.
“The film festival brings films to Powell River that would not come here otherwise,” said Shilling.
The tough job, he added, is bringing awareness to the excellent stories and documentaries that do not have the marketing support of the latest multiplex blockbuster.
“These are not films that are promoted, so you won’t see ads for them on the television or anything,” said Shilling.
He encourages people to consider the selection the festival brings to town as a lot of thought has gone into choosing films that will have meaning for local viewers.
“We always ask ourselves when we’re choosing films: ‘Is it good for Powell River?’ I encourage people to take a chance,” said Shilling. “Go a little outside their comfort zone and see something that they may not normally.”
One of the films on Shilling’s must-see list is People’s Republic of Desire.
“It’s about a social media platform in China that has taken the country by storm,” he said. “It is literally people with no talent doing very boring things on video, but people watch them and they get status by people giving them cash gifts. Some of these people make the equivalent of $40,000 a month just doing mundane tasks; it’s an interesting snapshot on where society could go.”
Firecrackers is another film Shilling said he believes will strike a chord with Powell River residents. It is scheduled to screen at 1:30 pm on Friday, February 15.
“It’s an awesome film about these two feisty young women who want to leave their small town in Ontario,” he said. “I’m sure there are lots of people in Powell River who can relate.”
Another matinee, Science Fair, on Sunday, February 10, is the only film rated for youth. It tells the story of students from around the world competing for science prizes.
Although films come from around the globe, Shilling points out that the local festival is not international.
“Our focus is not to represent the whole world here,” he said. “It’s all about tying local to international.”
This means providing a platform for homegrown talent, and the festival has a tradition of supporting local filmmakers.
“This is the third year in a row where we’ve had a locally produced film as one of our highlight films,” he added.
This year that film is Hehewshin - The Way Forward, directed by Tla’amin Nation’s Cyndi Pallen. It tells the story of the joint creation of a traditional dugout canoe involving indigenous and non-indigenous people working together on the path of reconciliation that took place right here in Powell River. Next week’s article on the film festival will take a closer look at this film and other local connections at the festival.
Powell River Film Festival runs February 8 to 17. Film screenings take place at the Patricia Theatre.
For more information, go to prfilmfestival.ca.