Tuesday, November 4, 2014

WIFF barely registers on Detroit's radar screen

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the disconnect between Windsor and Detroit. Here we are, two metropolitan centres – admittedly one of vastly larger size – but nevertheless connected by industry, employment, family and friends, not to mention Canadians’ devotion to pretty much all things Detroit sports! And yet we have a film festival in Windsor, now in its 10th year and running until Sunday, which barely registers on the Detroit radar screen. Sure, the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF), does limited marketing in the States. And occasionally there will be a blurb in a Detroit newspaper, as per the Free Press in its Play entertainment section last Thursday. But the Windsor event is far from a Motor City phenomenon. Yet there is nothing like it in American megalopolis. In fact until only recently there was no mainstream film fest in the Motor City at all. (Ann Arbor has had its long running experimental film festival). The closest Michigan mainstream festival like Windsor’s happens to be a four hour drive away each summer in Traverse City, also now in its 10th year. It’s only been in the last couple of years that anything like a regular festival got underway in Detroit, and that’s Cinetopia. Cinetopia launched three years ago in Ann Arbor and expanded to Detroit in 2013, with films screened mainly at the Detroit Film Theatre and nearby venues. Fifty films were shown over five days last June. Cinetopia is billed as a “festival of festivals” and culls its films from some of the world’s great film festivals including Sundance, Toronto, Cannes and SXSW. It’s of course to be welcomed. But this is still a nascent event and its offerings dwarf what’s on display in Windsor. In fact this year’s WIFF has well over 100 films screening over nine days. Yet one could barely hear a pin drop in Detroit when it comes to that city’s buzz over the Windsor festival.

As for WIFF, my picks for the rest of the week – Clouds of Sils Maria, A Wolf at the Door, Halfway, Winter Sleep, Mr. Turner, Force Majeure, Corbo, Age of Uprising, Beloved Sisters, The Sea, In Her Place, An Eye for Beauty, Wild Tales and Tom at the Farm.

The news that the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, known as busybodies in some places, has chosen this week’s WIFF to deliberately launch a campaign to designate as Restricted movies in which actors smoke, isn’t new. Health groups across North America have long been lobbying for some sort of restrictive code. More than 10 years ago World No Tobacco Day focused on eliminating tobacco content in movies targeting younger audiences. To me this is social engineering and I’m against it. But I’m constantly amazed by how many films still feature characters’ smoking. Not that the smoking bothers me per se. It’s that it seems so out of touch with how average people live their lives these days. Smoking is way down among the general population. Why isn’t this reflected in the movies?

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