Skip to content

qathet film society gears up for annual festival

Journey of growth continues through community engagement
Movie-goers line up in front of the Patricia Theatre during last year’s qathet international film festival.

qathet film society is preparing for its 23rd annual film festival, which is set to open on March 1. Gary Shilling, executive director of the society, shares insights into the festival's evolution, community involvement and this year's offerings.

Under his leadership, the society embarked on a journey to preserve and enhance the Historic Patricia Theatre. 

The festival, which began in a high school gym and was originally named the Reel Love Film Festival, has evolved significantly since its inception.

In 2012, when film went digital, the community stepped up and raised $100,000 to purchase a new projection system, and the film festival moved to the Patricia.

In 2019, amid challenges such as COVID-19 and the previous owner's retirement, the community rallied once more, raising $250,000 to secure the theatre's future.

"Now we own the theatre outright," notes Shilling, highlighting the extensive restoration and renovation efforts, including a new roof, windows and restoration of the original 1928 canopy.

This year's qathet international film festival theme, "Engaging Cinema, Engaging Minds," reflects the society's belief in film as a powerful storytelling medium. The festival, which runs from March 1 to 9, will showcase 16 diverse films, half in English and half subtitled, offering a curated experience from around the world.

"We try to build an arc of storytelling through our festival programming," explains Shilling.

Before the opening film, The Old Oak, on March 1, folksy musical group Old Enough to Know Better will play while guests enjoy local food and drinks. Ken Loach's final film explores the struggles of a declining English village and its reaction to Syrian refugees, highlighting the director's long-standing focus on social issues and complexities of human emotions and motives.

The closing film, Solo, set in Montreal's drag scene, follows a character’s journey of self-love and overcoming toxic relationships as he navigates his passion for drag and complex personal relationships, ultimately highlighting the transformative power of self-acceptance, especially in the queer community. Before the film, drag performer Connie Smudge take the stage at the closing party.

The festival also includes morning after film salons for critical discussions and support for local filmmakers. Throughout the festival, there will be special appearances and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.

“We're really proud of our program on International Women's Day [March 8],” says Shilling. “We'll have the filmmakers, the producer from the National Film Board, and North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney will be there as well.”

For the matinee, Analogue Revolution: How Feminist Media Changed the World is a documentary that explores the impact of 1970s and 1980s feminist media, from print to radio, highlighting its role in filling information gaps and challenging the lack of diversity while illustrating the evolution and challenges of feminist media over the decades.

The evening film is sponsored by Tla’amin Nation and directed by Dr. Jules Arita Koostachin. WaaPaKe is a profound story about the intergenerational effects of residential schools on Indigenous families, combining personal testimonies and a focus on resilience, love and transformation, culminating in a hopeful vision for the future.

"We believe in embracing ideas that are challenging and gathering with a community of open-minded people interested in dialogue outside of mainstream cinema," explains Shilling. “Step a little outside of your comfort zone, spark your creativity, open your mind to new ideas and expand your experience.”

The festival program and film trailers are posted at Tickets can be purchased online at or in person at the Patricia.

Join the Peak's email list for the top headlines right in your inbox Monday to Friday.