Regent Park Film Festival returns to Regent Park just in time to celebrate its tenth anniversary.
By Christopher McKinnon
Four years ago, the Regent Park Film Festival had to relocate their administrative operations to another part of town when their offices were demolished as part of the Regent Park Revitalization project—but they always knew it was only temporary. In September, they moved their offices back to the neighbourhood, just in time to celebrate their tenth anniversary.
Regent Park Film Festival 2012 Festival Trailer
“Now that we’re back in Regent Park, we work amidst the community,” says Executive Director Ananya Ohri. Though they’ve only been located in the new cultural hub at Daniels Spectrum (formerly called
Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre) for about six weeks, it’s already proving easier for the organization to create spontaneous collaborations. “The other day students from Pathways to Education dropped by for a community screening of Invisible City, a documentary about two kids growing up in Regent Park,” says Ohri, “Earlier, a group from Dixon Hall came to check out some films.”
A tenth anniversary is a big milestone for any not-for-profit organization, but for the Regent Park Film Festival, it’s particularly poignant. “It’s an important reminder of our core founding principals: community, expression and accessibility,” says Richard Fung, the festival’s Program Director. “We strongly believe that people from all walks of life should have access to good stories, and that sharing good stories builds a good context for forming strong communities.” Firmly rooted in the Regent Park community, the festival is busier than ever working to highlight inner-city voices and experiences through film and workshop programming that is free and accessible to the members of the community and beyond.
This year’s festival kicks off on Wednesday, November 7 with the beginning of their programming for schools and opening night celebrations. The school program runs through Friday, November 9, offering free screenings for local school groups, grades one through eight. Teachers get a toolkit that includes a curriculum-based lesson plan to help them explore the films with their students back in the classroom. “Our aim is to find films that pique curiosity, encourage empathy, share knowledge and are fun,” says Ohri. The films for the school program are selected with the help of a volunteer committee comprised of community members, filmmakers, students, artists and educators. School groups are encouraged to watch the films and engage in a discussion, to put two and two together, make meaning and understand what is going on. “Good movies, I feel, don’t explain everything, but leave some things to interpretation,” says Ohri. “And once that movie is over, we can talk about what we understood and why.”
As a learning tool, watching and discussing films—especially films that have a voice that reflects the students’ experiences—helps students develop and exercise their media literacy. Just as importantly, film helps the festival’s audiences see and share outside experiences that speak to their own lives. “Films can really take you into a whole new world—real or fiction,” says Ohri, “[They allow you] to learn about experiences far away from ours and appreciate the connections and differences that exist.”
Following the festival’s tradition, Opening Night will shine a spotlight on the voices and stories of young filmmakers. “Young voices don’t always have an outlet – a place to celebrate their expression,” says Fung. “The festival, when it started, wanted to create a space where this can happen.” For an organization that is dedicated to serving a community like Regent Park, with 36% of the population under the age of 24, it’s not hard to see why this is a priority. Beginning as a showcase for works created by youth through Regent Park Focus, the evening has expanded to feature the voices of young film and video makers from across Canada and around the world.
ANANYA OHRI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Opening Night, because it celebrates the strength of new voices.
Rezoning Harlem, because it includes a panel discussion that will tackle the responses to revitalization, an ever-pressing topic in the community.
Saturday Morning Breakfast & a Movie, because it’s free breakfast and a screening of the Japanese animated feature Light of the River. A totally fun time with family and food!
RICHARD FUNG, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
The Interrupters, because the film and discussion are going to be very impactful
The Chiney Shop, an interesting short doc about Chinese convenience stores in Jamaica
Besouro, because it’s the Closing Night film and there’s a lot of action, which is always fun!
VU NGUYEN TRAN, PROGRAMMING INTERN
Some highlights from this year’s program include Roda Siad’s film In Between Stories. “[The film] questions representations of Africa by engaging young black artists in conversation about the work they do and how they respond to these ever-present stereotypes,” says Fung. The program also features King’s film Life After High School, a short comedic film about students fielding bizarre suggestions about what they should do after high school. Films produced by youth video collectives round out the program and pull no punches tackling a variety of issues from identity, violence, and immigration to feminism and homophobia.
Opening night will also feature a special Star Panel, featuring film luminaries Clement Virgo and Atom Egoyan among others. They’ll discuss how where they have come from has influenced them in the work they do today. “[It's] an important question for young people to consider as they embark on their own journeys towards figuring out and pursuing their life goals,” says Ohri.
The Regent Park Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary from November 7 to 10, 2012. As always, all screenings and events are FREE.
For complete festival listings and film details, visit www.regentparkfilmfestival.com