There’s nothing like sitting in a theatre with your fellow film lovers and sharing in the excitement, awe and surprise (and maybe horror, especially around this time of year) as the story unfolds on screen. Laughing, gasping, crying and applauding in unison – going to the movies presents a unique opportunity to connect with the community. It’s a feeling that’s been missed by many over the past while. That’s what makes the 33rd St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) all the more special this year.
The SJIWFF is one of 10 local arts organizations that are part of our “The Art of Going Out” campaign, which encourages the public to engage with the arts, while emphasizing the important role that the arts plays in our society, culture and economy (click here to learn more).
Taking place from October 19 to 23, the SJIWFF will feature virtual and in-person events that cover the business and creative aspects of filmmaking, including filmmaker Q&As, panels, pitch sessions with industry leaders, networking events and more. And of course, there are the films – all 43 of them, including eight local shorts.
The opening and closing night features – respectively “I Like Movies” directed by Chandler Levack and “Something You Said Last Night” directed by Luis De Filippis (the RBC MJ Award Short “Vegas,” directed by Anna Wheeler, will also be shown during closing night) – will screen at the Cineplex in St. John’s and be followed by a reception at The Rec Room. The LSPU Hall will also host screenings of short films, along with filmmaker Q&As, on October 2 at 2pm and 7:30pm (NDT).
This is the first year since the start of the pandemic that the SJIWFF team will be welcoming audiences back to theatres and as such, have implemented measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all, including socially-distanced seating options (in addition to non-distanced seating. The 2pm screening at the LSPU Hall will also have reduced-capacity seating). Staff and volunteers also will be required to wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible throughout the festival and forum.
In an ongoing commitment to increase accessibility and inclusivity, the festival has also introduced a number of options for in-person events. On opening night, Cineplex will have CaptiView devices on hand for those who prefer closed captions, as well as assistive listening devices (the location is also wheelchair accessible). And the LSPU Hall’s 2pm film screening will include closed captions of the films and live ASL interpretation of the Q&A. (Read more about the festival’s accessible features here.)
In an effort to have more films reach more people, the festival is also keeping virtual options that it introduced during the pandemic. Viewers in the Atlantic region, Ontario and Quebec can enjoy a number of features and shorts from the comfort of home. And with the festival’s Virtual Accessible Pass, film lovers can view online films with closed captions.
“Having our films screening virtually will hopefully make these awesome films more accessible to viewers! We had some great feedback last year, especially from parents, that they liked how flexible it was,” says Natalie Dignam, Manager of Marketing and Communications with the SJIWFF. The festival’s virtual Film Industry Forum panels, Dignam adds, are also free and available anywhere.
As one of the longest running women’s film festivals in the world, the SJIWFF offers something for everyone. After all, there’s a reason it was named one of the “10 amazing film festivals worth traveling for” by USA Today in 2019. But even if you can’t make it in person, you can still enjoy everything it has to offer.
Catch the SJIWFF from October 19 to 23.