The Ottawa International Film Festival celebrated its fifth anniversary this year and it’s fantastic to see how quickly it has grown over those years. This year had a great blend of local films, like Girlhouse, and international films from Brazil, India, Russia and more. They even got an Oscar winner in there with The Lady in No. 6, which is pretty cool. It also partnered with other Ottawa events like co-presenting My Father and the Man in Black with the Ottawa Bluesfest, securing its place in the cultural landscape.
There is also the Music Video Challenge, which has been a part of the festival since the beginning. Yes, music videos still exist and are a unique art form unto themselves. This is a great way to celebrate the work that these artists and storytellers are doing in this often over-looked medium. A really unique and interesting experience in a film festival.
The gala, which kicked off the whole festival, was quite the classy affair. There was a great turnout of varied filmmakers, Ottawa’s new film commissioner and even the mayor, Jim Watson, himself. (The best comment of the evening: “Here we’re proud of our mayor.” What a bizarre concept.) Watson made a speech which included the most relevant line: “We’re not TIFF. We’re not Toronto.”
Now, yes, Toronto’s film community is undeniable and is the reason most people have to leave smaller cities like Ottawa to find work and make movies. It happens. But Ottawa shouldn’t try to be Toronto (unless you too would like to be a stand in for all American cities). There is room for many different film industries to exist in this country. Ottawa has its own unique flavour and not being the size of Toronto’s industry offers its own opportunities and advantages. It’s about finding what makes Ottawa unique and running with that. (The opportunities that exist in the Market alone are copious.) There’s a lot more to Ottawa than the politicians.
Talking with local filmmakers, there’s the passion and determination that is helping grow Ottawa’s industry, just like this film festival is doing. People in Ottawa have still been making films but mainly on their own. Now there is more of a spirit of collaboration and working together to make even greater films which will push the industry further and further.
This growth is happening at the same time that there is a lessening of the fear of actually using Canadian settings. Shows like Rookie Blue and Flashpoint are more Canadian and still sell south of the border. The F-Word is intensely Toronto and still sells tickets despite the use of the Bloor Street Diner and The Royal. And in this vein, I can’t not mention the greatest show of all time Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays which was set in Ottawa – the perfect backdrop for those two characters. There is more opportunity now to explore our own cities in our films and TV.
The whole point of this is that there is room for more filmmaking industries outside of the behemoth that is Toronto. Areas like Niagara are also exploring and building their own industries too. There is a ton of potential in Ottawa right now and I have no doubt that we will see a lot of great things coming out of there. OIFF is a great way to celebrate that and showcase the work that is being done.
Thank you to everyone at OIFF for the wonderful experience and letting us be a part of the festival this year. Looking forward to seeing what you do next year!