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SOAR: New adventure film fest planned for Sudbury for late January

The popular Banff film fest tour has gone virtual, so indie cinema, LU adventure leadership team up to create new local festival 

Greater Sudbury has a new adventure film festival launching in the new year.

This cinematic homage to wilderness and adventure is named Sudbury Outdoor Adventure Reels Film Festival (SOAR Film Fest).

It’s a unique collaboration between Laurentian University’s Outdoor Adventure Leadership Programme (ADVL) at the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, and Sudbury Indie Cinema, Northern Ontario’s only not-for-profit arthouse cinema.

The festival is planning in-theatre screenings the weekend of Jan. 29-31 from the movie house, with a combination of features and shorts, including award-winning features, as well as locally produced adventure films, specific to Northern Ontario.

The press release notes Greater Sudbury has maintained comparatively low COVID case numbers throughout the pandemic. Sudbury Indie Cinema reopened in mid-August and has been following strict mandated directives for in-theatre film screenings.

Obviously, holding the festival in-theatre depends on the provincially mandated COVID lockdown being lifted in this area, as planned, in mid-January.

An open call for shorts submissions went live on Film Freeway for the inaugural edition of SOAR Film Fest. 

The organizers are hoping for enough quality submissions to present two shorts programmes at the festival: one of locally shot films, and one from international submissions.

One of the festival founders, Jim Little, is the co-ordinator of the ADVL programme, and a past local organizer of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Sudbury,  a popular annual event that had been drawing upwards of 800 attendees each year over two cold January nights.

With the Banff World Tour going 100-per-cent virtual this year, Little saw the perfect opportunity to launch something more local and in-person for a variety of reasons: for his students to get hands-on experience with a public event; to support our local cinema and showcase local films, local outfitters and outdoor stores; to provide a safe and unique opportunity for the adventure and wilderness-loving community to come together for a shared cultural experience in the dead of winter in the North.

“This unique partnership between Sudbury Indie Cinema and the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Program out of Laurentian University is a slam dunk for community engagement as well as student learning and leadership,” Little said.

Students Kavan Dobos and Owen Duncan are both on the festival planning committee and after virtual learning to this point in the academic year, of a typically very hands-on experiential programme, are both thrilled to be on the ground-level of a new film festival.

“It’s such a gift that we as a community have an opportunity to get together safely and enjoy some amazing local outdoor films on the big screen!” Dobos said.

Duncan, who will be judging some of the short film submissions, is eager to see what local talents will emerge from the adventure film festival new Northern Ontario-centric.

“This could very well be the beginning of an annual festival that showcases outdoor cinema made in Sudbury and beyond,” he said.

Lining up the features programme is Indie Cinema’s lead programmer Beth Mairs, herself no stranger to the field of outdoor adventure and adventure film-making. 

Mairs founded Wild Women Expeditions out of Sudbury back in 1991, which grew to become the largest outdoor adventure company for women in Canada under her 20-year leadership. She sold the company in 2010 and pursued adventure filmmaking, before settling into film programming. Mairs is a graduate of the Banff Centre’s Adventure Filmmakers Program. 

“In a year where film distribution on the big screen has been so hampered, we feel really proud and privileged to be able to connect adventure filmmakers and adventure film-lovers with each other through SOAR Film Fest here in Sudbury,” she said.

Mairs promises a strong slate of the year’s best adventure-filming.

The film slate, still being confirmed, will be posted online here.