Moviegoers at this year’s SWIFF film festival will get a chance to see current and retro films meant to provoke, inform and entertain, says executive director Ravi Srinivasan.
“It’s my goal to bring interesting content that examines world issues and inspires better understanding.”
Several of the 15 films coming to the South Western International Film Festival in Sarnia tackle difficult issues, such as opening night’s Detroit.
Director Kathryn Bigelow dramatizes the Algiers Motel incident of 1967 when three black teens died and Detroit police were charged.
“When we hear about police violence we see the headline and it washes over us,” said Srinivasan. “But a film delves into how these events impact and change individuals, families, the community, and the country.”
The same holds true with City of Ghosts, which relates stories about the Syrian civil war, followed by a panel discussion with refugee survivors and JAYU film festival executive director Gilad Cohen.
Srinivasan, 31, grew up in Sarnia and now works with the Toronto International Film Festival. He teams up with fellow former Sarnian Jennie Chu to select each year’s SWIFF films. Chu works in Toronto at Warner Brothers.
This year, they’ve added a few more movies to the four-day festival Nov. 2 – 5, including a screening of Our People Will Be Healed at the Kineto Theatre in Forest on Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.
SWIFF also features a two-night concert series and a virtual reality gallery at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, where participants can literally step into short films.
Don’t get the impression all this year’s films are heavy. Some humour to the screen including Beatriz at Dinner, a political commentary featuring Salma Hayek that takes on immigration stereotypes present during the 2016 presidential election.
The Other Side of Hope deals with the refugee crisis in Europe but has an optimistic, funny take, according to Srinivasan. Star Sherwan Haji will do a post-screening Q & A.
Rave reviews at Cannes and TIFF promise big things for The Florida Project showing at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4. Wilem Dafoe plays the hotel manager where six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her rebellious mom Halley (Bria Vinai is a major discovery found on Instagram) spend the summer. All three deliver touching, possibly Oscar-worthy performances.
Srinivasan is also offering up a couple of retrospective films. The first, called Incendies plays Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. and was Oscar nominated for best foreign film in 2010.
The second, Paris, Texas, is described by Srinivasan as his favourite movie of all time.
“It’s about this mysterious character who disappears for years and reappears out of nowhere. The characterization is just wonderful,” he said.
On Nov. 3, SWIFF audiences will meet several local residential school survivors , gathered to discuss the screening of Birth of a Family about the reunion of four siblings broken apart.
A special feature at SWIFF this year is a showing of New Chefs on the Block, a documentary about two young Washington D.C. chefs launching their own restaurants. For those who opt in, the movie will be followed by a four-course meal served by Sarnia chef Paresh Thakkar of Personal Touch Eatery.
The full SWIFF line-up is at the Imperial Theatre unless otherwise noted:
Thursday, Nov. 2:
7:30 p.m. – Opening night film Detroit
Friday, Nov. 3:
1 p.m. – Incendies
4 p.m. – Paris, Texas
7 p.m. –Birth of a Family
9 p.m. – Sweet Country
Saturday, Nov. 4:
11 a.m. – SWIFF/Noelle’s Gift Fam Jam: Babe (under 14 free)
1 p.m. – The Other Side of Hope
4 p.m. SWIFF Food on Film New Chefs on the Block
7 p.m. – The Florida Project
9 p.m. – The Square
Sunday, Nov. 5:
11 a.m. – La Chana
1 p.m. – City of Ghosts
2 p.m. – Our People will be Healed (Kineto Theatre, Forest)
4 p.m. – Beatriz at Dinner
7 p.m. Closing Night Film: TBD.
Tickets to SWIFF, including concert series CineGaze, available at www.swiff.ca. Also at the door.