For a film festival only in its second year, Forest City Film Festival (FCFF) had an air of maturity like no other.

The FCFF highlighted regional films in a diverse range of categories – all of which have a Southwestern Ontario connection. Screenings took place at the Wolfe Performance Hall and at Imagine Cinemas.

Tanya Sahni, who interned with the festival for the past few months, said that FCFF ran smoothly and as planned, thanks to the dedication of everyone involved, including an ample amount of volunteers.

Forest City Film Festival
Interns Tanya Sahni and Dishan Anderson.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “And a really great opportunity to meet new people in London who I would’ve never gotten the opportunity to meet.”

Local connex

Julia Barnes, director of Sea of Life, agrees.

“The festival has been absolutely amazing,” she says. ““It has a huge focus on connections to Southwestern Ontario, and I’m from Burlington, Ontario, so it fits really well.”

Forest City Film Festival
Director Julia Barnes receiving her award for best documentary.

Her documentary about the world of coral reefs won an award at the festival. Barnes said being able to screen the film helps raise awareness about what is happening in the ocean.

In session

The festival also featured a selection of industry sessions, featuring panels of professionals in all areas of film, including sound, marketing, and funding.

Forest City Film Festival
Executive director of the FCFF, Dorothy Downs, at the opening gala.

Caio Baú, director of Luiza – a short film about “the delicate relationship between a special needs girl and the universe that surrounds her” – said the industry networking opportunities FCFF provided were a big part of the festival’s growth.

“The festival is very grown and mature for only being in its second [year],” he says. “There are good opportunities for filmmakers from London to get to know each other and others from the industry.”

Having moved to London from Brazil recently, Baú said he was impressed by all the films he’s seen at FCFF. “I want to watch everything I can while I’m here,” he laughs.

Forest City Film Festival
Attendees on Saturday’s network event at Edgar and Joe’s.

Sahni thinks it’s important to remember what makes FCFF so meaningful and unique – the focus on high quality films made either locally or by locals.

“We often go searching for talent outside of where we live,” she says. “Canadian content was very important to me, and seeing it here makes me understand it’s not just Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.”

Look local

She says every city has amazing talent and people from every aspect of the arts, and we should look around to meet those people, and not just focus on the big metropolises.

Forest City Film Festival
Q & A with filmmakers Kalainithan Kalaichelvan (left) of Stella Maris and Kyle Sawyer of Mann. Nearly all films concluded with an audience Q & A, a chance for festival attendees to receive insight on the films they’ve seen.

The festival ended with a featured screening of Violent directed by Andrew Huculiak. Its SWO connection is Mark Vogelsang and Farmhouse Creative Labs, who completed the sound design for the film.

It has won 19 awards so far in the festival circuit – yet another reminder that talent doesn’t stray far from home.

The winner’s list at FCFF is as follows:

Best Screenplay: Forgotten Slaves of Sand Island

Best Animation: It Happened During Recess, Cherry Zong

Best Short Documentary: Babe, I Hate to go, Andrew Moir

Best Short Film: Martin’s Haage, Penny Eizenga

Best Documentary: Sea of Life, Julia Barnes

Best Featured Film: Go Fish, Brett Heard & Kate Drummond

Audience Choice Award: Clearing the Way, Paul Culliton

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