Dianne Pearce, like many movie fans, grew up at a time when the local cinema was powered by actual film rolls spinning around on large, old-style movie projectors.
Today’s movies, however, come to the masses in digital format, lighting up multiplex screens in high definition and home theatre TVs on Blu-ray disc. To reflect this changing reality Museum London’s Domestic Arrivals Festival will move away from film and firmly into the digital realm.
Domestic Arrivals, the museum’s showcase of Canadian film, takes place from Feb. 28 to March 3. In total, 14 movies will be screened, ranging from hidden gems to Academy Award nominees.
“Canadian film is very strong. It isn’t Canadian filmmakers making films about Canada. Whether it is dramas, or documentaries, or comedies, many Canadian filmmakers are challenging international issues,” Pearce said. “It isn’t all just navel gazing by any stretch of the imagination.”
Museum London has been screening Canadian films for the past four years, originally in a monthly series. Last year, however, museum officials decided to take those monthly films and show them in a festival format over several days. Movies for the festival come through the museum’s partnerships with organizations such as the Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs, which is an international documentary film festival.
This year’s festival, the second since the change in formats, received a significant boost through a grant provided by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund. The grant is designed to allow organizations to put on festivals that draw attention to cities and create ripple effects to the community’s economic atmosphere and quality of life.
While the grant assisted in pushing forward the festival, the museum’s 159-seat theatre will soon benefit from a brand new projector — a device that is far more technologically advanced that the piece of cinema history it is replacing. The purchase is partially funded by the former London Canadian Film Festival (which closed in 2008), the London Short Film Showcase (which ended this past November) and the PA Shop.
The projectors the museum has now are at least five years old, Pearce said, and certainly aren’t high definition. As the festival switches to a Blu-ray-powered event, Pearce said the museum felt now was the time to jump into the digital format.
“In our everyday lives, everything is so technology based that I don’t notice it anymore. But being born in the ‘60s, it is a big change,” Pearce said. “I have watched things changed over the years, from my father doing eight-millimetre home movies of us, all that equipment is still in their basement.”
The museum still has eight-, 16-, 18- and 35-millimetre projectors, which will continue to see usage over the year to ensure they remain in good, working condition.
“They need to be used, oiled, they need to be used at least a few times a year. We don’t just want to stick them in a box and not use them,” Pearce said. The switch to digital also means reduced costs, as 35-pound film rolls don’t have to be lugged around and shipped back to their distributors.
The films in this year’s festival includes comedies, documentaries, dramas, Quebecois films, student features, as Pearce said, “a little bit for everybody” and they aren’t just films about Canada either.
The festival gets underway on Feb. 28 with The World Before Her, a movie named best Canadian feature at Hot Docs. That will be followed by the opening night gala and a question and answer session with the film’s sound editor, Christopher Guglick, who studied sound production at Fanshawe College.
The rest of the weekend, March 1-3, will see four and five movies per day. On Friday, March 1, at 11 a.m., will be a new addition to the festival, a family film called Wapos Bay: Long Goodbyes.
Later that day is the movie Goon, a comedy that Pearce said is a great example of what the festival is about.
“Goon is a just a great Canadian comedy about hockey, you will laugh through it, but it deals with a serious issue, the fighting in hockey,” Pearce said. “It does so from a comedic point of view, but there is a real message.”
Other highlight movies include David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (staring Twilight star Robert Pattinson) and the Oscar-nominated War Witch (Rebelle).
The closing party on Sunday, March 3 will also feature awards presentations for People’s Choice and Best Overall Student Film.
Pearce said the festival will be putting on some of the best films Canada has to offer, which fits right in with the museum’s overall objective to spotlight local, regional and national Canadian history.
But in addition, Pearce said, the festival also strives to make sure Canadian films get the exposure they deserve.
“Canadian film doesn’t get a lot of airtime. So where else are you going to see some of these films?” Pearce said. “Movies transport us to other places where we can be someone else for two hours. They allow us to dream. And that fits right with what we want to do.”
For more information on Domestic Arrivals or to purchase tickets online, visit www.museumlondon.ca/films.
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