Red carpets. Flashing lights. Movie premieres. ION light rail transit.

Think one of these things doesn’t belong? Well, they’ll all be part of next May’s edition of the Grand River Film Festival. Last season saw the festival usher in some changes including moving from the fall to the spring. 

This year will see the festival take place entirely in Kitchener with the Apollo Cinema serving as the main screening cinema. “We’re the the Grand River Film Festival, that stretches the entire region. We’re really want to be a great part of the community,” said Michael Clark, Chair of Programming for the festival.

In addition to the Apollo, films are screened throughout the year at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in Uptown Waterloo. Like the Apollo, both are also quick walks from ION light rail transit stations. “We’re looking forward to leveraging the ION next year to bring people out,” added Clark. 

One of Clark’s favourite parts of the festival is the Youth Video Competition in collaboration with the City of Kitchener and the Kitchener Public Library. The contest is open to budding filmmakers between the ages of 12 and 25. Prizes are awarded in three age groups, 12 to 14, 15 to 17 and 18 to 25. “We find it’s high school students who are really into it. For kids who don’t know yet if they want to be filmmakers, it’s a great way to get started,” Clark said. The cash prizes are great, but even better is that the winners of each category are screened before films during the festival.

Clark mentioned two great local resources for filmmakers of any age in Waterloo Region. The Working Centre’s Commons Studio offers a membership-based equipment rental program and studio space. Their equipment library is impressive and includes everything from lights to microphones to cameras. 

The recently opened Heffner Studio at the Kitchener Public Library also offers tools and space for film and video production. The studio has workstations loaded with Adobe video tools including Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing. Heffner Studio also has production booths for recording audio for your production. “What’s great about Heffner Studio and Commons Studio is that they give people the tools to develop new skills and passion,” said Clark. The Grand River Film Festival is launching a podcast soon and they’ll be recording and editing at the Heffner Studio.

Already lining up to get your tickets and popcorn? Don’t worry – you don’t have to wait until May to enjoy the festival. The festival runs two monthly screening events throughout the year. 

In partnership with CIGI and THEMUSEUM, the CIGI Cinema Series is a monthly screening of documentaries focused on social justice themes. The most recent screening was “The Future of Work and Death,” a documentary exploring the impact of technological advances on the two certainties of human life – work and death. “THEMUSEUM has their exhibit ‘AFTERLIFE | A Séance Experience’ on right now and this tied into the documentary focused on death and dying,” Clark said. The three partners take turns each month curating what film to screen. The series takes a break in December and will return with a screening of the documentary “Anthropocene:The Human Epoch” on Jan 21, 2020.

Also running monthly from the end of April through September is the CineSeries in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival. Each year, TIFF puts out a list of mid-range movies for other film festivals to screen. “We’re unique in that normally a city this close to Toronto doesn’t get to participate.” In November, the festival screened “Wild Nights with Emily” at the Cineplex Theatre in Cambridge. The screening was also a clothing drive to support The Bridges, an emergency shelter and housing support centre. 

The Grand River Film Festival is also a great option if you’re looking to get involved with a local event. It’s an entirely volunteer-led festival. “There are no salaried positions; we’re here to celebrate and inspire community through the shared experience of film,” said Clark. 

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While I’m getting ready for my close-up, I see and hear that...The Christkindl Market returns to Downtown Kitchener Thursday, Dec. 5 through Sunday, Dec. 8 with live music, unique vendors and more to help you get in the holiday spirit. There's a screening of the documentary PUSH at the Princess Cinemas starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5. PUSH follows Canadian Lelani Farha, UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, as she travels the world to figure out who is being pushed out of cities. Presented by Powershift, the KW Community Foundation, ALLIN2020 and the Cambridge & North Dumfries Community Foundation. The Saturday morning all-you-can-eat-cereal cartoon party is back at the Apollo Cinema with their holiday edition this Saturday, Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. Bring your own spoon and bowl – gluten free options available.