The 3rd Ottawa International Film Festival

This year marks the third year for the Ottawa International Film Festival and it continues to grow as a showcase of both local and international works. This year, the two headlining movies were both produced here in Ottawa and a slew of internationally produced docs premiered over the weekend long event. 

Opening night of the 3rd Ottawa International Film FestivalThe first night of the festival opened with long lines and a great crowd for locally produced Thirteen Downs. The crowd included a lot of local celebrities and recognizable faces from the movie and theatre communities and also included Invest Ottawa’s new commissioner of film,TV, and digital video, Genevieve Menard.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start thanks to an unexplained thirty minute delay before anybody was allowed into the theatre. Word is there were technical difficulties and theatre staff were barring people from entering but no announcement was made during the line or apology made once things did get underway.

Before Thirteen Downs, the OIFF screened the winner of their most recent 72-hour challenge, held earlier this year. Called Encore, the short film was about an elderly, possibly homeless man, who relived his youth by appropriating make-shift art supplies (ketchup and mustard, lipstick, etc) and using them to create an abstract painting, much like he did when he was a child.

OIFF Producer, Nina Bains

Festival director, Nina Bains

Things then really got underway with the screening of the first full length feature of the festival. Thirteen Downs was a beautifully shot movie. Technically speaking, it was very well-produced movie, on par with much bigger budgets and a pleasant surprise compared to many local films shot in that budget range. Kudos to Karim Ayari, director of the movie for that and his work with the strong cast. As writer however, less so. The storyline could have been a lot tighter. While there were good moments and the ending was strong, the middle hour of the movie dragged a lot and very little actually happened in one thread of his two-thread narrative. Fortunately, the main cast  of Ron Tarrant, Richard Gélinas, and Sophia Radisch were all top notch and carried both the material and their characters expertly.

There was controversy over the selection of Thirteen Downs because of a possible conflict of interest posed with Nina Bains serving as both executive director of the OIFF and producer on the movie but fortunately, in the end, Thirteen Downs was a good movie and a fair start to the festival. It’s just a shame that that was slightly marred by at least one cast member’s last name being heavily misspelt in the credits.

Correspondent Ken McDavitt was also on hand for 13 Downs and has the following to say:

THIRTEEN DOWNS was a film by local producer, writer, director, Karim Ayari. Ayari worked on numerous shorts and documentaries (internationally) in recent years but Thirteen Downs was his first full length feature.

Thirteen Downs director, Karim Ayari with starlet Sophia Radisch

Director Karim Ayari, along with one of the stars of Thirteen Downs, Karim Ayari.

The movie starts with 13 year old Lily (Sophia Radisch) laying next to a retired 68 year old (Ron Tarrant) whose first line is “What just happened, stays between you and me”  THAT is how  our mystery adventure begins. When the 68-yr old’s son, Stuart (Richard Gélinas) arrives to find an underage girl at his father’s house and his father nowhere in sight, he is more than a little concerned. As the story unfolds we discover that things are not be what they seem.

Jumping back and forth in time reveals more and more of the mystery but the truth is not revealed until the very end. Emotionally the audience goes from concern, to laughter to tears and the roller coaster of emotions start all over again.

It is a riveting and intense, quality production worth watching, keep an eye out and watch it if you get the chance.

The festivities continued throughout the weekend with more screenings Friday evening and Saturday that included short films, national features, and international documentaries such as the award-winning “Free China: The Courage to Believe.”

Rob Menzies, producer with Zed Filmworks

Rob Menzies, producer of The Day.

Saturday evening saw the screening of the OIFF’s second headline movie, The Day, about a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world trying to survive a day in a cabin under siege by cannibals. The modestly budgeted picture was produced by Zed Filmworks with actors you’d recognize (Dominic Monaghan, Shawn Ashmore) and an entirely local crew to whom producer Robert Menzies exulted high praise during a Q&A following the screening.

The Day was a solid movie, which reviewer Matthew Champ reviewed for Production Ottawa under our Should You See It banner after it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

Following that debut at TIFF, the OIFF marks the Ottawa premiere for The Day, which is set for a U.S theatrical release as well as on DVD/Blu-ray this fall.

After that, it was all over but the after party and a low key music video challenge that would take place on Sunday. Overall the OIFF team did a wonderful job continuing to build on the momentum from previous years and put on a solid event for their third year. Next year’s festival is set for October 2013 and we’ll see you there.

Before you go, let us know what you thought. What did you think of the film selection at this year’s OIFF? What did you love? What did you hate? Tell me in the comments below.

Here’s a set of photos from the opening night of the festival. For a much larger gallery, track us down on Facebook.

All photos taken by Production Ottawa photographer, David Pasho.
Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!

What do you think?

We fully encourage discussion and want to know what you're thinking but always remember to keep it civil and don't make any personal attacks against the article author or another commenter.