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Increased theatre capacity comes just in time for SWIFF

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Ontario’s decision to allow theatres to run at full capacity arrived just in time for Sarnia’s annual South Western International Film Festival.

As a result, SWIFF can make a strong, in-person return after going completely digital last year.

“The 600-seat Imperial Theatre is where we do most of our screenings and we were willing to move forward at 50% capacity, because we needed to do whatever we could do to get back in person,” says SWIFF Executive Director Ravi Srinivasan.

“Now we’ll be one of the first to use the theatre at 100%.”

Sales were soft for SWIFF6 when the festival was forced online.

“It was understandable,” said Srinivasan. “The fun aspect of SWIFF is it’s an event where the community loves to feel engaged, likes to come out to socialize and talk about the films.

“That just wasn’t an option last year and we’re excited to be returning to in-person.”

In fact, SWIFF7 will be a hybrid of in-person and online screenings, concerts, workshops and live Q&As.

Most screenings will be at the Imperial Theatre, with a few at the Sarnia Library Auditorium. But some will also be available online for anyone unvaccinated or uncomfortable with in-person events.

In keeping with Ontario’s public health protocols, event-goers must be fully vaccinated and wear a mask.

This year’s lineup includes several movies that were hits at the Toronto Film Festival, where Srinivasan works as a programmer.

Night Raider is a dystopian sci-fi feature that opens the festival on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Imperial.

It’s Canadian filmmaker Danis Goulet’s first feature length movie and was the first Indigenous film to premier during TIFF’s gala section.

“Danis is Cree and Metis and is receiving massive critical claim for this film,” said Srinivasan. At TIFF, Goulet won the 2021 Emerging Talent Tribute Award for Night Raider. It’s anticipated she will attend SWIFF but might be detained by editing work on her new film, which is shot in Grand Bend, Srinivasan said.

“If there’s a conflict she’ll have to do her Q & A remotely, but we’re hoping she can be there,” he said.

This year’s festival offers 14 feature length films. There will also be three short film programs presented free at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery (JNAAG).

As usual, SWIFF is including films featuring the work of Sarnia artists. One is Danny Alexander who makes his directorial debut with the documentary No Tickets at the Door, which examines the impact of COVID-19 on the live music scene.

Alexander’s film is presented Nov. 19 at the library auditorium. Alexander will be there and will also play with his band “Secret Sign” during the Cinegaze concert series at Collide (148 Front St.) the same evening.

This year SWIFF introduces a new short film competition. The public votes on their favourite short and the five finalists are shown at 1 p.m. at the Imperial Theatre on the Nov. 21, the final day of the festival. The winner gets a $500 cash prize.

For the full SWIFF7 lineup, visit Tickets and all access passes are on sale now.


WHAT:  SWIFF7. The 7th annual South Western International Film Festival

WHERE: Downtown Sarnia, various venues including Imperial Theatre, Sarnia library auditorium, ISO Bar, and Collide.

WHEN: Nov. 17 – 21.

TICKETS: Go to Each screening is individually priced. $99 All Access passes are also for sale, as well as $49 Digital Only passes.




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