Film festival fills gap in local arts scene


Come for Emma Donoghue and a screening of Room. Stay for a chance to see movies you might not otherwise see anywhere else in London.

Regional film festivals – such as the inaugural Forest City Film Festival, taking place Nov. 11-13 at the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall – are an important opportunity for local cinephiles and filmmakers to get involved and share their work, said Constanza Burucua, who teaches in the Film Studies and Modern Language and Literature departments at Western.

It is important to showcase talents, interests and experiences bred in a particular area, while inviting others to witness and participate in the dialogue. This was something missing locally, she added.

“There is a lot of talent in the region in the film industry. Festivals are a way to showcase your work and who you are, with a lot of people around the table coming from somewhere else. It’s a very complex cultural phenomenon,” noted Burucua, who sits on the board and helped organize the Forest City Film Festival.

“It is important for London. It’s kind of strange we didn’t have a film festival until now. It’s great because this will bring the attention to us from people in the region, people in Canada and, hopefully, people from far as well.”

The festival, for which the Faculty of Arts & Humanities is a sponsor, opens Friday with a talk by Donoghue, LLD’13, an award-winning, London-based author, as well as a screening of Room, for which she wrote the screenplay and received Oscar, Golden Globe and British Academy of Film and Arts award nominations. Donoghue is an “extreme” example of the local talent who was happy to hop on board and support the film festival, Burucua said.

A wide array of movies will be screened over the weekend, with more than 20 productions falling into four categories: short films, short documentaries, feature films and feature-length documentaries. All of the movies have a regional connection and a number of the productions feature Western alumni, she added. Some of the films have been screened at Cannes, Toronto’s Hot Docs and the Toronto International Film Festival. At the end of the festival, a prize will be awarded for each category in addition to a People’s Choice Award.

“I do research on film festivals. I got in touch with artistic director Dorothy Downs, and I explained to her the kind of research I do, how interested I was in learning about this phenomenon that I study, from within, seeing how they actually work,” Burucua explained.

The festival promises something of interest for everyone, she continued, with movies about music, history and everyday life, all offering interesting perspectives from the region. Liminality, a feature-length film about young adults in London, is just one of the noteworthy offerings, Burucua added. A short film, My Brother Charlie, is another “neat narrative” that won’t disappoint.

“It’s so well-told, the idea that he’s trying to convey – I don’t want to give away anything – but it’s an amazingly well-crafted short film about children, and very strange things happening,” she said.

Born to Be Blue, which tells the story of American jazz musician Chet Baker, portrayed by Ethan Hawke, will also be screened at the festival this weekend. With alumnus Daniel Abboud, BA’90, behind the camera, the movie was shot in and around Sudbury, Ont.

It’s a happy coincidence the Forest City Film Festival weekend follows the weekend of Words: London’s Literary and Creative Arts Festival, Burucua said. The two festivals show a strong focus on and interest in the creative arts in the region, which she is happy to see.

“Sometimes when you’re doing these kinds of things (festivals), there’s this kind of harmony or synchronicity, which is positive for the city and the people who live in the city,” she noted.

“We are expecting and hoping that the festival will be a great success, that the community will support the event because the festival was conceived with the community in mind.”


The inaugural Forest City Film Festival takes place Nov. 11-13 at the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall. Visit for details.