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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Bye Bye Bridges

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday September 18, 06:05 pm
Saskatoon’s alt-film festival has a new name, but it’s still fantastic

SASKATOON FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL

Sept. 22-27

Broadway Theatre (and various other locations)

I know it’s hard, but this year we’re going to have to stop calling it The Dark Bridges Film Festival. Firing up the projectors on its fifth year, Saskatoon’s alt-film festival has changed its name to The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival [SFFF].

If it’s any consolation, the change is tough on the organizers of the fest as well — but it’s for the greater good, they say.

“I love our old name,” says festival director John Allison. “I always thought it made us stand apart from all the film festivals within Canada and also the world, but it also created this perception that we were [just a] horror festival for Saskatoon.

“The new name better represents what we have been right from the very beginning: a festival that gives Saskatoon the chance to see amazing movies of all different genres that defy convention in their form, style and content. We want to challenge and entertain our audience with films that they would not otherwise have the opportunity see,” he says

There is a ton of film programming during the festival: 14 feature films, 20 short films, a 48-hour movie challenge screening and the Found Footage Festival, which gathers hilarious and weird footage from VHS tapes found at garage sales and thrift shops.

It’s hard for Allison to pick favourites when it comes to the features, but he’s willing to give it the old college try.

“The ‘big name’ genre movies like The Babadook, Housebound and Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead will be a blast because of the energy that the audience will have,” he says. “But the ones I’m really looking forward to are the more quiet films. The One I Love (featuring Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men) is an amazing film about a couple that goes on a retreat to reconnect and something strange happens. It’s probably the smartest romantic comedy that I have seen in a good while.

“The Icelandic drama Metalhead is a powerful drama about dealing with loss and the healing power of music and family, [and] I can’t help but try to program a really good film noir film each year if possible — and this year we have Cold In July, which stars Michael C. Hall [from Dexter] and Don Johnson [from Miami Vice].”

In addition to the screenings themselves, there’s the ever-popular Zombie Walk, where a couple of hundred participants shamble from The Vimy Memorial to The Broadway Theatre in full zombie dress. The SFFF has also added music this year, with DJs, after-parties and performances from bands like The New Jacobin Club.

Putting on a festival like SFFF isn’t easy, and it can be a challenge to drum up support in a smaller geographic centre like Saskatoon. Allison has a small crew of volunteers, and he and his helpers put on the show out of a shared passion for community events and a love of introducing awesome films to a crowd of people, watching the looks on their faces as they discover something new.

“I love movies, and I love the emotion I can feel from an audience when we bring in something that draws them in. I’ve made good friends from around the world who are filmmakers and festival organizers, and we all do it for the same reason: we love film and we love going to the movies with an audience.”

Community support is growing from sponsors, especially those like The Broadway Theatre and The City of Saskatoon itself, but it’s really the people that have the power to make this festival take flight in the long run. As the festival enters its fifth year, they’re programming some stellar films and other cool events, and it’s really important that we support events like these that keep our culture alive and vibrant.

 

“Our second year was our best year ever,” says Allison, “and we’ve been working hard at growing our audience back up to that level. Our audience size really is dependent on the film selection for the year, but what we would love is for Saskatoon to grow to trust us and to know that we’ll program amazing movies that you might not have heard of. If you’re willing to give it a try, we can guarantee you’ll see something that you won’t forget.”  

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