While nobody can bring back the year 2019, Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 17-25, is going to feel a lot more like it did pre-pandemic than it has the last couple of years.
But with most pandemic restrictions now dropped in Ontario, these popular receptions where film-goers sometimes get to rub elbows with film stars are back for 2022.
(We asked organizers, by the way, if any famous guests are expected for the film festival, but an announcement on that is still pending).
“We think that this event is going to feel a lot like 2019,” said Patrick O’Hearn, speaking to Sudbury.com Aug. 25, at the launch of Cinéfest’s lineup, which was held at the SilverCity cinema, where films are screened.
Of course, O’Hearn said Cinéfest will take the usual pandemic precautions that have become second-nature to everyone these days, including encouraging people to wear masks and to stay home if they’re feeling sick.
Cinéfest executive director Tammy Frick said festival organizers were being a bit cautious as they went into this year’s event, not knowing if out-of-town guests would be willing to travel to attend the festival.
“We were wrong,” she said. “The phone has been ringing off the hook. Film circuit programmers are more than ready to come back, film guests are asking to come not only from Canada, we've had three or four requests already for international guests. People are ready to be back out and in person and to be celebrating film. So we're really thrilled about that.”
As was the case in 2020 and 2021, Cinéfest will continue to have a hybrid format this year, with some films available for streaming at home (87 films, a mixture of features and shorts), and others available in-theatre (74 feature films).
That’s whittled down from the roughly 1,000 films submitted to the festival — and yes, festival staff do have to sit down and watch all of these films before making their selections.
O’Hearn said the virtual format introduced during the pandemic has actually allowed Cinéfest to give exposure to more films.
“I'm extremely excited about the quality of the films,” he said.
“We received more submissions than we ever have before … You know, one of our biggest worries going into the pandemic is if, if there's going to be a pause in the industry itself, how's that going to impact the product, and one thing that we learned is that filmmakers are incredibly, incredibly resilient.”
A couple of this year’s gala films are on very topical subjects that seem grabbed from current news headlines.
A case in point is the opening gala film (Sept. 17), “Ashgrove,” which is about one of the world’s top scientists battling to find a cure to a crisis affecting the world’s water supply, reminicent of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and work on a vaccine.
The Sunday, Sept. 18 gala film, “Call Jane,” is about a traditional ‘60s American housewife who needs to get an abortion because her pregnancy threatening her life, which brings to mind the recent Roe v. Wade decision in the United States.
“Call Jane” stars Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver.
“The abortion issue has taken up so much attention in the United States, and I think what this film does so well is it shows you know, the variety of perspectives for people who need the services of abortion and need to make that very difficult decision,” O’Hearn said.
As has become a mainstay of Cinéfest, this year’s festival will feature several films shot in Greater Sudbury and the surrounding region.
An example is the Friday, Sept. 23 gala film, “North of Normal,” which was filmed in Greater Sudbury, North Bay and Mattawa.
The film is about a teenage girl raised in the wilderness who hopes for a normal life after moving to the city with her anything-but-normal, pot-smoking mother.
“‘North of Normal’ is a fun film,” O’Hearn said. “I think people who worked on the film are going to love it, and I think general audiences are going to love it as well.”
Cinéfest’s full lineup will be available as of Friday, Aug. 26 on the film festival’s website (look below this article for our full listing of the gala films). Program books are currently at the printer, but will be available as of Sept. 2.
Tickets for individual gala films will be available to purchase as of noon Aug. 26 at www.cinefest.com, by phoning 705-688-1234, or by visiting the Cinéfest Sudbury Box Office (located at 40 Larch Street, Unit 103).
This year, gala tickets are available to purchase with the après-film reception for $25 or without the après-film reception for $20 (HST included in ticket prices).
Admittance to the après-film reception is on a first come, first served basis and is not guaranteed.
Cinéfest 2022 gala films
Opening night gala (Sept. 17)
Ashgrove (Jeremy LaLonde, Canada, 2022) - Set in the not-so-distant future, Dr. Jennifer Ashgrove (Amanda Brugel) — one of the world’s top scientists — is battling to find a cure to a crisis that affects the world’s water supply. As the weight of the world takes its toll, she retreats to the countryside with her husband, Jason (Jonas Chernick), in a bid to clear her mind. But their relationship is strained, and they soon realize that their ability to save their marriage will literally determine the fate of humankind itself.
Sunday night gala (Sept. 18)
Call Jane (Phyllis Nagy, USA, 2022) - Joy (Elizabeth Banks), a traditional 60’s American housewife, is desperate for a second child. However, the wonderful news of her pregnancy is tainted by the threat it poses to her own life. She has nowhere to turn until she stumbles upon the Janes, an underground group of ordinary women united by Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), who risk everything to provide people like Joy with choices.
Monday night gala (Sept. 19)
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile (Kathlyn Horan, USA, 2022) - Trailblazing, hell-raising country music legend Tanya Tucker defied the standards of how a woman in country music was supposed to behave. Decades after Tanya slipped from the spotlight, rising Americana music star Brandi Carlile takes it upon herself to write an entire album for her hero based on Tanya’s extraordinary life, spurring the greatest comeback in country music history.
Tuesday night gala (Sept. 20)
Viking (Stéphane Lafleur, Canada, 2022) - The Viking Society is recruiting volunteers for the first manned mission to Mars. The goal is to form a B-team that will mirror the mission here on Earth to find solutions to the interpersonal problems that the Mars-bound crew is experiencing. The film tells the story of David (Steve Laplante), a high school gym teacher, who seizes this opportunity to revive his dream of becoming an astronaut and making a difference.
Wednesday night gala (Sept. 21)
Alice, Darling (Mary Nighy, Canada/USA, 2022) - Set in Canada, a young woman named Alice (Anna Kendrick) begins to realize, with the help of her friends, that she's stuck in a relationship where all is not as it seems. As Alice begins to understand her dire situation, her partner appears at the remote cottage where they're all staying and demands that she return to the city with him.
Thursday night gala (Sept. 22)
Broker (Hirokazu Koreeda, South Korea, 2022) - Sang-hyun (Song Kang Ho) runs a laundry shop and is constantly saddled with debt. Dong-soo (Gang Dong Won), who grew up in an orphanage, works in a baby box facility. One night in the pouring rain, they secretly carry off an infant who was left at the baby box. But on the following day, the mother So-young (Lee Ji Eun) unexpectedly returns for her son. Director Hirokazu Kore eda’s previous film Shoplifters screened as a Special Presentation at Cinéfest in 2018.
Friday night gala (Sept. 23)
North of Normal (Carly Stone, Canada, 2022) - After being raised in the wilderness, a teenage girl moves to the city hoping for a normal life with her anything-but-normal, pot-smoking mother. North of Normal was filmed in Greater Sudbury, North Bay, and Mattawa. Director Carly Stone’s previous film The New Romantic screened as the Wednesday Night Gala Film Presentation at Cinéfest in 2018.
Saturday night gala (Sept. 24)
The Swearing Jar (Lindsay MacKay, Canada , 2022) - Carey’s (Adelaide Clemens) story: a high-school music teacher who throws a birthday concert for her husband, Simon (Patrick J. Adams), which rekindles reminiscences of their past. Through comedy, music, and memory, we follow the story of Carey and Simon’s relationship, the birth of their child... and the lie that threatens to mess it all up.
Closing night gala (Sept. 25)
Presque (Beautiful Minds) (Bernard Campan & Alexandre Jollien, France/Switzerland, 2022) - Louis (Bernard Campan) is the director of a funeral home. An undertaker, as they say. Hardened and single, at 58, he cannot bring himself to retire. Igor (Alexandre Jollien) is 40 with a sharp mind in a handicapped body. Passionate about philosophy, his travelling companions are Socrates, Spinoza, and Nietzsche. Of the others he brushes up against, he knows nothing, ignorant of almost everything about sensuality, friendship, sex, and real encounters. By happenstance, the paths of Louis and Igor cross as they both embark on an adventure that far surpasses their expectations.
Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at Sudbury.com. She also covers education and the arts scene.