By Dug Stevenson
The fourth annual Belleville Downtown DocFest International Documentary Film Festival is scheduled for February 27 to March 1, 2015. The festival’s vision of “three days of outstanding documentary films that celebrate life and human dignity around the world and right here at home” continues with themes of social justice, the environment and arts & culture making for thought-provoking, introspective revelations of the truth in a fragile world.
Over 50 films are being shown in four downtown venues, from the 700-seat Empire Theatre, a beautifully restored downtown movie house, to smaller screening rooms in the CORE Centre, the Belleville Public Library, the John M. Parrott Art Gallery and Pinnacle Playhouse.
DocFest’s much-anticipated Friday night Opening Gala at The Empire Theatre is Keep On Keepin’ On. The film chronicles legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and his friend/mentor relationship with Justin Kauflin, a young pianist with huge potential but challenged by being almost totally vision impaired and prone to pre-performance nerves. Following the film, the audience will be privy to Justin’s Canadian stage debut and newest album launch.
Keep On Keepin’ On will also be shown to over 400 secondary school students on Friday morning, followed by a workshop given by Justin for 150 music students from the Quinte area and beyond. Additional DocFest films offered to school audiences on Friday are The Backward Class, The Starfish Throwers and Way of Life. Other featured films at The Empire Theatre are Saturday night’s Red Army and Sunday afternoon’s finale Trash Dance.
The 50+ documentaries playing at the festival were sourced through the Hot Docs Showcase, National Film Board, and through independent productions. This year, 14 films with a local connection are in the program, plus another seven films that were selected from submissions by outside independent filmmakers.
DocFest is committed to supporting local and independent, emerging and established filmmakers, providing them with a venue for presenting their films and the opportunity to interact with audiences, network with other filmmakers and participate in professional development workshops. All of the local filmmakers are scheduled to attend their screenings and be available for Q&As.
Filmmaker workshops offered at no cost will cover topics like distribution, visual media and crowdfunding. Mark Haslam from the Ontario Arts Council will talk about how to navigate a grant application and Manfred Becker, the critically acclaimed German-Canadian documentary filmmaker and editor, will discuss several topics related to a career in documentary filmmaking.
DocFest is also privileged to have been chosen as a partnering organization for a series of workshops presented by Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT). LIFT is Canada’s foremost artist-run production and education organization dedicated to celebrating excellence in the moving image.
Students from Loyalist College Television and New Media Program are provided with an opportunity to screen their film projects during DocFest week and the winners, selected American Idol-style, are part of Saturday’s ‘Local Spotlight’ program. Students from Loyalist’s Post-Grad Public Relations program are assisting with publicity and promotion and Photojournalism students will be documenting the festival.
The audience is the heart of DocFest and has grown each year. This is a testament to the power and appeal of documentary films. Belleville firm Pretsell Davies Lawyers is again sponsoring the Opening Gala and further funding for DocFest is provided by the Ontario Arts Council, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Quinte Film Alternative and United Way Quinte.
Point of View is proud to sponsor the festival’s screening of Harold Crooks’ The Price We Pay. To read an interview with the filmmaker, purchase a copy of POV’s latest issue. Belleville DocFest attendees can also receive $5 off a one-year subscription to the magazine by tweeting a photo of their ticket stub to @povmagazine.
To read more about some of the films screening at this year’s festival, click the titles below to read POV features and reviews.
Finding Vivian Maier
Trick or Treaty?
A Tomb With A View