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Saskatchewan film fest to put province on world map

Organizers hope to join the likes of Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton that have their own international film festivals
Organizers of the inaugural Saskatchewan International Film Festival are inviting movie fans to join them from Dec. 4 to 11.

SASKATOON — Organizers of the first Saskatchewan International Film Festival are hoping to put the province and the city of Saskatoon on the world map, looking to make this side in Western Canada another tourist spot like the more known destinations of Vancouver and Surrey in British Columbia, and Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta.

“Initially, we thought of organizing an event that will put Saskatoon on the map as a destination for something. With the advent of Netflix and many other platforms for watching movies, we realized that people generally find watching films as a good way to relax,” said Joyce Malayba of event organiser PRIMECom Corporation.

“Also, we think that when you say Canada, many people would readily think about the more popular cities and provinces. Therefore, we thought that having an international event that will engage people from all over the world, in an activity that a lot of people love doing; that is, watching a movie, will create awareness about Saskatoon.”

She said throughout the course of their planning for the event, they realized that creating awareness should not be limited to one city when they could promote and invite tourism for the entire province. “Of course, we had to do the first in Saskatoon because logistics-wise, it is easier for the organisers because we are all Saskatoon-based.”

Malayba added they are expecting birth pains to be associated with their pilot project. However, she likened their event to a film. “The Saskatchewan International Film Festival is like a story that will unfold before your eyes. We plan to have a bigger event in the years to come.”

“When the situation is safer to have actual screenings in a physical venue, and the situation becomes better when it comes to logistics, budget, and support from everyone. We are thinking of holding the festival in a different city every year. That's basically why we decided to name our festival the Saskatchewan International Film Festival.”

COVID-19 cancelled the event last year and the uncertainty of the global pandemic again nearly pushed the film fest to 2022. The provincial government then eased the health restrictions midway this year encouraging organizers to push through with the event.

“When restrictions eased middle of this year, we spoke to cinemas in the city where people can go for actual screening.

“That's when the challenges in logistics became evident. The cost of having the screenings for a week at the cinemas was something a first-time festival finds hard to come up with, especially since businesses that are potential sponsors have also just started opening and are still recovering from months of non-operation.”

Malayba emphasized that the Saskatchewan International Film Festival Inc. is a non-profit organisation.

“[That’s why] we must come up with the cash prizes, tokens, and trophies. So, when options to hold virtual events came up, we, at SIFFI, decided to push through with the festival with a hybrid platform.”

She said that health and safety remain their priority, especially for those who are going to attend the film festival.

“The venues themselves have given us guidelines as to the number of people we can have at the event. We follow this number, taking into consideration the technical staff, the guest performers, the organisers, our guests of honour which are all provided with numbered complimentary tickets.

“The rest of the maximum number of people we can have is controlled based on the numbers of tickets we sell. We will also require attendees to wear face masks inside the venue, observe social distancing including presentation of vaccination cards if required on the day of the event.”

They had already selected 21 official entries that submitted through FilmFreeway, based on early submission on Aug. 15 and the Oct. 21 deadline. Thirteen of the 21 entries are from Canada with three from the province. Greenland, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Turkey are the other countries that joined the film festival.

Malayba added they did not limit the entries to professional film makers alone.

“In fact, we do not accept films that have already been shown commercially. As seen in the categories, we have one that is for Student/New Web Media.”

The other categories are Short Film, Full Length Feature (Fiction), Full Length Feature (Non-Fiction), and Indigenous. However, no entry was received for the latter category. Out of the said categories they will select the Overall Best Picture and special awards for Best Actors (male and female), Best Supporting Actors (male and female), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Musical Score, and Audience Choice.

“Winners of each category will receive a trophy and cash prize. Winners of special awards will receive a trophy. FilmFreeway, which is the platform where all film entries were submitted and now are being judged, made it easy for the judges to rate the entries,” said Malayba.

She added the FilmFreeway system gathers the rates given by the judges, which then generates the winners. Points are given to Originality/Creativity, Writing, Direction, Production Value, Sound/Music, and the performances of the actors. Moviegoers will be picking the Audience Choice Award, which the system gather the ratings on the films they think are deserving of the prize.