News

Simcoe film festival gets back to roots

By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor

The Routes to Roots Film Festival will kick off at the Simcoe Strand Theatre Oct. 21-22. Pictured (back row), co-founder and Strand owner Kent Rapley (left), co-founder Mike McArthur along with (front row) co-curator Michael Chwastiak (left) and chair Jim Carroll. (JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer)

The Routes to Roots Film Festival will kick off at the Simcoe Strand Theatre Oct. 21-22. Pictured (back row), co-founder and Strand owner Kent Rapley (left), co-founder Mike McArthur along with (front row) co-curator Michael Chwastiak (left) and chair Jim Carroll. (JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer)

Get a glimpse of rural life around the world at the first Routes to Roots Film Festival in Simcoe.
A selection of feature films and shorts, a showcase of local, national and international film with an emphasis on themes of returning to roots, rural life and connectedness, are on the bill at the festival, set for Oct. 21 and 22.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring people together,” said Michael Chwastiak, co-curator of the festival. “We want to give people something they don’t get to experience anywhere else.”
The seeds for the rural festival were sown several years ago when Simcoe lawyer Mike McArthur, who was recently appointed an Ontario judge, had a conversation with Kent and Cindy Rapley, owners of The Strand Theatre, a 208-seat venue on Robinson Street.
A festival committee came together about two years ago. They are a group with wide-ranging backgrounds in acting and producing, tourism, social media, law and business.
After a committee decision to not, at least for the first year, call for film submissions but to seek out those that fit the festival theme, Chwastiak and Elana Post, both local actors and producers, were tasked research and selection.
“There are about 10,000 films a year released in every genre,” said Chwastiak. “Having to choose was tough.”
“So many people are making their own films, even on iPhones,” agreed Jim Carroll, chairman of the organizing committee.
Chwastiak said that, with a focus on new filmmakers, he and Post set out to find films that hadn’t been in or weren’t planned for wide distribution. He said he researched online and took a look at the up-and-comers in Filmmaker Magazine and other sources.
Chwastiak said watching trailers for the films was an effective way to determine whether they suited the Routes to Roots theme. 
The result is a collection of films that vary widely in genre, content, and production styles.
“There is such a variety of films from all over the world. One of the shorts we are showing was shot with a single, low-res camera in an apartment with the filmmaker’s grandma,” said Chwastiak.
“Another short, Lost Village, has some wonderful cinematography shot in Europe.”
The festival will open on Friday, Oct. 21, with a showing of In Her Place, a Canadian and South Korean film directed by Albert Shin.
That will be followed by the feature Diani and Devine Meet the Apocalypse. There are plans to bring the directors Etta Devine and Gabriel Diani from California to Simcoe for the screening.
“We’d like to get as many producers and filmmakers here as possible to talk about their films,” said Carroll. “It makes it a richer experience for the audience.”
The matinee feature on Saturday, Oct. 22, is I Dream in Another Language from Mexican filmmaker Ernesto Contreras.
The festival will close on Saturday evening with the Ethiopian film, Lamb.
There are also plans to show a block of short films, many of them with Canadian directors. A collection of shorts geared to children will be screened for free on Saturday afternoon.
There is an effort underway to get local eateries and wineries involved in the event, with wine and cheese served in the theatre for some of the films, and for after-parties.
Festival organizers also want to showcase the beauty and diversity of Norfolk to filmmakers so they will consider the area for future projects.
“We have a really wide range of looks,” said Chwastiak. “There are beaches, cityscapes, industrial areas, farms.”
Carroll said the film festivals give makers a venue to see their work on the big screen and for audiences to share in that. “The beauty of a movie is you can have an experience in a relatively short period of time,” said Carroll. “It’s a communal experience. You can go out with friends and talk about it. It’s not the same as being at home and watching Netflix.”
The festival is in need of about 25 volunteers to act as greeters, ushers, and to sell festival merchandise. Contact Jim Carroll at jimc@kwic.com or call 519-427-6333.
Tickets for Routes to Roots are now for sale. A two-day pass is $50, including tax. Individual admission for each of the four feature films and the shorts presentation is $12 per person, including tax. More information is at www.r2rff.com
mruby@postmedia.co