Ottawa to host new international film festival this March

Move over, TIFF. Ottawa is getting an international film festival of its own. 

Organized by the Canadian Film Institute, the inaugural edition of the International Film Festival of Ottawa, or IFFO for short, will take place March 25-29 at the Ottawa Art Gallery and other downtown locations. 

“Ottawa is a great city for filmgoers,” said CFI director Tom McSorley in an interview, citing the popularity of other film festivals the institute organizes. The not-for-profit charitable organization also operates the long-running Ottawa International Animation Festival, as well as Ottawa’s Latin American Film Festival, the African Film Festival and the European Union Film Festival.

“The numbers of people who go to movies, and who go to our festivals and support us, it’s impressive given the size of the city we are. There’s a real appetite for international cinema,” he said. “I think Ottawa is ready for an event like this.” 

McSorley also pointed to the all-but-forgotten history of film production in the nation’s capital. “Ottawa was the centre of film production in Canada for 35 or 40 years from the 1920s to about 1956, and people tend to overlook that. We’re going to build into the festival a celebration of Ottawa’s film heritage with a couple of archival screenings of films produced here.” 

What’s more, the current level of film-production activity in the city has never been higher, added Bruce Harvey, Ottawa’s film commissioner. The new $40-million soundstage to be constructed near the Nepean Sportsplex is also expected to create another 500 jobs.

The new festival will feature the Ottawa premiere of about 20 award-winning films, a handful of which were announced Tuesday. Included in the preliminary announcement are Canadian works such as Guest of Honour by Atom Egoyan, Docking by Trevor Anderson and The Twentieth Century, Matthew Rankin’s idiosyncratic biopic about the late Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. 

Both Egoyan and Rankin will be in attendance at the festival. 

International titles to be screened include About Endlessness by Swedish director Roy Andersson, who won best director honours at the Venice Film Festival, and Dolce Fine Giomate by Poland’s Jacek Borcuch and starring Krystyna Janda, who won a special jury award for acting at Sundance. 

The new event is supported with more than $107,000 in funding by the Ontario government. Up to 10,000 people are expected to attend, and there will be a robust program of professional development and networking. 

“Make no mistake, the cultural industries in this province are going to lead the way in the new economy,” said Lisa MacLeod, the MPP for Nepean and minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. She said that Ontario’s cultural industries contribute an estimated $71 billion in economic activity. “The creative industries are where it’s at,” she added.

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