This weekend (February 28th-March 3) the Kingston Canadian Film festival will be taking place over four days at the screening room in downtown Kingston. It is the largest festival in the world dedicated exclusively to Canadian films and returning for its 19th annual year. At first glance it may seem like yet another themed film festival that you’re probably fine to pass up on, but the KCFF is working towards something important: making huge leaps for our domestic filmmakers and for Canada as a nation.
If you haven’t already noticed, Canada’s national cinema isn’t particularly thriving. If we’re to try to name a well-known or widely acclaimed Canadian movie, it proves tougher than one would think. Further, considering how we’re largely seen by Hollywood as part of their domestic market, with just over one percent of all box office revenue in the country going to English Canadian films, it’s pretty clear to see that we’re lacking in terms of our roster noteworthy films. But if we already have all the blockbuster entertainment we need, what’s the value in taking the time for Canadian movies?
We should value Canadian cinema firstly for its cinematic merit, but also as a means of building national consciousness. National cinema frequently takes on the responsibility of representing the nation to its citizens through stories and images. Watching these films sparks a process of self reflection, making us question ourselves as people, what we love, what we hate, what we have in common and what we disagree on.
We already have tons of Canadian actors, and everything, ranging anywhere from Twilight to Titanic has been shot in Canada, but when defining Canadian national cinema the question is: what are the films about? Are they Canadian stories? Are they set in Canada? Are the characters Canadian? Are they concerned with Canadian issues? Most of all, to what extent do they construct and question notions of nationhood in the film itself and in the consciousness of the viewer?
While there is always a demand for such cultural products, Canadian audiences both don’t know and don’t have access to our own films. With less than two percent of theatre screen time being given to domestic films our viewers are missing out on this important process of self reflection. Therefore believing in its importance to our country’s culture and recognizing the problem in its accessibility, the Kingston Canadian Film Festival has made it their mission to develop an audience for our national cinema by promoting, celebrating and showcasing Canadian film, and by supporting Canadian film production.
This weekend, the KCFF will have over 80 screenings showcasing the absolute best films Canada has to offer. These including the TIFF’s Top Ten as well as many more. Representing Canada as a whole, they will explore a diverse set of genres and stories from all regions of the country, including Quebecois, Indigenous, and immigrant perspectives. By connecting audiences to our filmmakers year after year, the KCFF is building a following for Canadian cinema and acting as a model to be replicated at festivals and events across the country.
I’d recommend taking a break from our tendency to frequent the blockbusters this weekend and indulge in what the KCFF has to offer. The festival is the optimal opportunity to step out of your movie going comfort zone, watch something new, support Canadian filmmakers, and add to the growing industry. And who knows, with enough progress maybe one day you’ll be going to the Cineplex to see a movie actually set in your city, instead of just being shot in it.
A couple of notable picks to check out this weekend include the coming of age tales Genisis and Firecrackers, the gripping historical dramas Great Darkened Days and Edge of the Knife, big name actors like Ethan Hawke and Jesse Eisenberg in Stockholm & Humminbird Project, and finally the highly anticipated the environmental documentaries Anthropocene and This Mountain Life.