I used to live down the street from a repertory movie theatre in London Ontario when I lived there as a student. I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons completely transfixed watching international films, indie films, and yes, a few one could only categorize as “freaky films”. I swear I learned as much from those films as I did from my studies. Truth be told, I think I saw Cinema Paradiso 7 times – that ending though…my poor heart! I would even go to movies alone, which was a big deal for the shy, 20-year old me. That discovery changed my world, and I’m forever glad for it.
For the love of movies
I moved back to Barrie in the late 90s and it took me a few years to learn that we, too, had choices for unique independent and foreign films through the Barrie Film Festival. So I went, and I went and I went. Over the next few years I became their biggest word-of-mouth advertiser even when I couldn’t go, talking it up like there was no tomorrow, because frankly, I was afraid there would be no tomorrow. With big corporations buying up local movie theatres and the onset of movie streaming and downloading, I was worried about losing my precious BFF. I remember finally asking one of the ticket-takers how I could become a volunteer, and to me it was like asking for a first date; that’s how nervous I was. I had a calling, and it was movies! When I was later invited to sit on the Events Committee, well, you can only imagine my delight.
An industry fan
People volunteer for many different reasons, be it spiritual, community, social, compassion, or yes, even mandated. I have volunteered for several organizations over the years, but the Barrie Film Fest, to quote Marie Condo, sparks the most joy! It’s become somewhat less about the movies for me and more about the people. Claudine, our Director is the kindest, smartest, coolest, steadfast person I’ve ever known and oh boy, does she know and love all things film. From the Board of Directors to every single member of the Committee, and of course the hardworking staff at the Uptown Theatre, I have to pinch myself sometimes that all these amazing people have come together for one sole purpose: film. Are we artsy? Maybe a little. Stuck up and bourgeois? Ha! Not at all. We just love movies!
My event-full life
For the past 8 or 10 years I’ve been primarily involved with Barrie Film Festival events as well as the Short Film Program. The events are a whirlwind of planning, setting up, a flood of people and then the deconstruction. During the flurry, I make a point to talk to guests about their favourite flicks so far; it’s fascinating that people of all ages and backgrounds come together to contemplate films of all genres! At the end of each big night, we all rub our feet and our heads and smile together knowing we pulled off yet another great evening of celebrating film. Who else gets the luxury of combining cinematic works of art with food, music, dancing and wine? It’s a fairy tale-meets-documentary-winning-an-Oscar dream come true.
The BFF Shorts programming is something else to behold. Filmmakers from around the globe submit their short films, but for me the best part is the local talent! I’m in awe of the truly impressive work that comes from our region including the high schools. Bring on the big-screen teen comedy or angst any day; I’m so here for it! If you haven’t ever checked out the ‘Shorts’, I can’t recommend it enough.
I’ll forever be in love with my BFF, and although I don’t see every film they showcase (mostly due to my schedule, not for a lack of interest!), I will champion this impressive, non-profit organization every chance I get. It’s not just the romanticism of sitting in an old theatre (eating the BEST popcorn in town, by the way) or losing myself to a truly compelling story…it’s all about bringing cultures, ideas, stories and most of all, movie-lovers together under one roof. The Barrie Film Fest has stood the test of time all these years due to strong leadership, perseverance and a dedicated following that grows every day. I’ve learned so much of life from film, and I owe a lot of that to the Barrie Film Festival.
“No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” – Ingmar Bergman
Written by Carole Wright – long-time volunteer and BFF of the BFF!