Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Congrats to Windsor festival's 15th year!

It’s the little festival that kept on growing. And this year (Nov. 1 – 10) marks the 15th anniversary of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF), a monumental achievement when you think about it, since the Windsor area isn’t particularly known for having an arts film-oriented audience. Moreover, WIFF isn’t the only film festival in the greater Windsor-Detroit area. Detroit and Ann Arbor feature other festivals throughout the year. But, in my books, WIFF beats them all, mainly because its formula of “mainstream” art house flicks (as opposed to more rarified documentaries or esoteric and experimental  films) are the ones that will most likely gain theatric distribution throughout the coming year. As well, many of these movies come from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) circuit and TIFF, after all, is, after Cannes, the most prestigious festival in the world and the one arguably that puts more films into regular distribution orbit. While WIFF isn’t on the scale of TIFF I often say to people, “Why go to Toronto – and fight the crowds and difficulty obtaining tickets – when you can see some of the cream of the crop two months later in little old Windsor?”....To celebrate its 15th anniversary WIFF has extended its programming to 10 days, slotting more than 165 films and 277 screenings…..I like the couple of major innovations this year. The first is WIFF Alley. WIFF officials have taken notice of the fact audiences cut through the alley between the Capitol Theatre on University Ave. and the Chrysler Theatre on Riverside Dr. So they’ve decided to utilize it to show off, among other things, “incredible public art installations.” Likewise, the new WIFF Village will take over University Ave. immediately in front of the Capitol Theatre on the festival’s second weekend, featuring “live entertainment and signature events”….. Downtown Windsor really comes alive during WIFF – arguably the downtown’s most festive time of the year (the Santa Claus Parade is one day, this is 10) - and it might make sense in future years to theme the entire downtown with WIFF imagery, something the downtown BIA, a sponsor, could increasingly get involved in……While the festival has expanded to 10 days the price of a festival pass has gone up to $249 from $195 last year. This seems a bit steep; we'll see the uptake. As well, the festival continues to pretty much be a solely Windsor event. I’m in Detroit a lot and virtually no one I speak to there has ever heard of WIFF (though Detroit radio station WDET is a sponsor). That’s not necessarily a criticism of WIFF – the Windsor-Detroit area has long had huge psychological barriers when it comes to interacting with one another. And, maybe it’s best this way. After all, we don’t want to crowd out WIFF screenings to the point tickets are hard to come by…..So, just like the City of Windsor as a whole, I think of WIFF as a best kept secret.

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