Kingston Canadian Film Festival Runs March 2-5

The Stairs

By Pat Mullen

The Kingston Canadian Film Festival (KCFF) is the nation’s largest film event devoted exclusively to Canadian cinema. Since documentary is Canada’s national art form, KCFF undoubtedly boasts a strong doc contingent in its weekend-long menu of Canadian content.

One benefit to KCFF is that the size and scale of the festival allows one to get a fair survey of the field. KCFF was my own first taste of the film festival life while attending Queen’s University and some of the best times from my Kingston years were spent at The Screening Room and the now-defunct Empire 7 catching about a dozen or so films over a weekend. One KCFF highlight from these years is the festival screening of Sarah Polley’s Away from Her with Gordon Pinsent in attendance—a fine opportunity to see one of Canada’s best actors discuss the performance of his career. KCFF opens this year’s festival with Oscar winner Brigitte Berman’s lovely doc portrait of Pinsent, The River of My Dreams, and while Pinsent himself isn’t on the menu, Berman will be at the festival to present her doc.

Speaking of presenting, POV is proud to support KCFF’s screening of Hugh Gibson’s The Stairs. This invaluable portrait of residents in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood is one of the finest feature debuts in years. This sobering verité-style doc humanises the characters of the social housing district. We recommend all the doc offerings at KCFF, but this one film in particular is worth a look in our pov.

Here are some highlights from this year’s festival:

All Governments Lie

This doc from Fred Peabody seems more relevant now than it did when it debuted at TIFF in September. All Governments Lie is a timely essay on the need for independent and alternative journalists who will hold the elected leaders of the world accountable when mainstream news buries the tough stories on page 17. In an era of “fake news” and a bull-headed leader silencing the press, these voices are more essential than ever. Read more on All Governments Lie in the POV feature ‘Truth Tellers’.
-Producer Peter Raymont will be in attendance at the festival.

Angry Inuk

Angry Inuk conquered one festival after another after taking the top spot for the Audience Award at Hot Docs this year. This audience favourite connects with viewers as Alethea Arnaquq-Baril puts herself at the centre of her hunt for truth as she counters misconceptions of the Inuit seal hunt perpetuated by the media. (Another kind of “fake news.”) This passionate documentary is point of view filmmaking in its finest form. Read more on Angry Inuk in the POV review and the feature ‘Why Are the Inuit So Angry?’.

Angry Inuk (Trailer) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

Celtic Soul

Director (and POV board member) Michael McNamara takes audiences on a fun ride in Celtic Soul. This easygoing travelogue pairs Canuck star Jay Baruchel with Irish soccer journalist Eion O’Callaghan to explore the love for soccer (or “football,” as they call it across the pond) that traveled with migrants such as Baruchel’s ancestors and brought the love of the game to Canada. The doc flies to the Emerald Isle from the land of the Maple Leaf as Baruchel and company look at the roots that connect people around the globe.
-Director Michael McNamara and producer/star Eion O’Callaghan will be in attendance.

Celtic Soul Trailer (Clean) from Markham Street Films on Vimeo.

Jerusalem, We Are Here

Queen’s film professor Dorit Naaman delivers a unique interactive documentary that was inspired by her travels to old Palestine. While renting an apartment, Naaman, an Israeli-Canadian filmmaker, discovered an old hand-drawn map in the home and decided to explore the history behind her dwelling. Taking to the streets, Naaman learns the history of her neighbours through interactive encounters and short films.
-Director Dorit Naaman will attend the screening.

Jerusalem, We Are Here

The River of My Dreams

From his CBC-TV days in Quentin Durgas, MP to his soul-searching performance in Away from Her, Gordon Pinsent might be the closest the Canadian film scene has ever come to creating a true star working in the national cinema. This doc by Academy Award winner Brigitte Berman (Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got) chronicles Pinsent’s admirable effort to build a place for actors to become stars while working in Canadian film and television when they might have found more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Berman uses some nifty animation to imagine Pinsent’s childhood, but the true star is the actor himself, who reminds us why he’s a Canadian icon with masterful performances of some of drama’s best monologues.
-Director Brigitte Berman will attend the screening.

The Stairs

POV presents this extraordinary feature debut from Hugh Gibson that profiles three residents in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood. The Stairs puts a human face on the lives that populate a corner of The Six that has a reputation for being one of the city’s rougher ’hoods. Executive produced by veteran Alan Zweig (Hurt), this doc lets residents Marty, Greg, and Roxanne share the experiences that brought them to their present situations. The doc offers stories of survival and resilience, but Gibson respects the journeys of the subjects by refusing to sugar coat the tales. The Stairs is raw and frank—a tough slice of verité, but an essential one. Read more about The Stairs in ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ and in the POV review.
-Director Hugh Gibson will attend the screening.

Win tickets to see The Stairs at KCFF!

Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves

Yes, it’s technically a drama interwoven with elements of documentary, but Graves is the radical voice that the Canadian film scene desperately needs. This shock of cinema breaks every rule of the art form with its disobedient approach to culture. Directors Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie put drama in dialogue with documentary as they create a parable about four Montreal radicals making sense of their world in the aftermath of the student protests of 2012. The students become radicals and resort to unruly action, and the contrasts between archival images and dramatic episodes asks the audience what sort of route to revolution is best. The countercultural tone of defiance and the spirit of rebellion that rings throughout the film add up to some wild, truly original cinema. Read more about Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves in ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’.

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

Doc master Alanis Obomsawin returns with a film of epic scope and power. We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice is necessary viewing for all Canadians as Obomsawin recounts the nine-year fight of social worker, advocate, and all-around hero Cindy Blackstock as she took a battle for the rights of Indigenous children on reserves to receive adequate medical care all the way to the Supreme Court. Obomsawin draws out the unsettling parallels between the case and Canada’s dark history of residential schools, for which then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper issues an apology while denying the needs of Indigenous children in the present. Kanehsatake might be Obomsawin’s masterpiece, but We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice will be her legacy. Read more about We Can’t All Make the Same Mistake Twice in the POV interview with Alanis Obomsawin.
-Director Alanis Obomsawin will attend the screening.

We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice Trailer from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

The Kingston Canadian Film Festival runs March 2-5.
Please visit for more information and to purchase tickets.