Last night, a welcome return to the neighbourhood for the community festival.
The Regent Park Film Festival celebrated a homecoming of sorts last night. The festival, which had left the neighbourhood for the last three years due to the Regent Park redevelopment project, hosted supporters, filmmakers, and media for a fundraiser and screening of the documentary We Are Wisconsin at their new home at the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre.
The Festival began in 2003, with a goal of providing Regent Park residents with high quality films—and specifically, ones that resonate with their experiences.
Gail Picco, chair of the festival’s board, says that this year’s festival, which kicks off on November 7, has a particularly special line-up: “The points of view in our films, you’re not going to find them at TIFF, you’re not even going to find them at Reel Asian.”
She points to one of this year’s selections, a short film called I’m Starting to Miss Him—in which the director talks about the death of his brother in a remote community in Northern Quebec—as proof of the the Regent Park Film Festival’s distinctive nature. “In three minutes, I’m going to be treated to something that somehow gets at the essence of being an aboriginal person in this country and losing somebody that’s near and dear,” she said.
Documentarian Hugh Gibson has two films in this year’s festival: A Safer Stroll and Harm Reduction. He says that the Regent Park Film Festival represents everything he loves about filmmaking. “I’m interested in social issue films and things with a different perspective,” he said. “They show a different side of things… It’s free, it’s very accessible. I love the program, I love the mindset. I’m very happy to be a part of this.”
We Are Wisconsin is a documentary about the 2011 occupation of the state Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, after legislators there attempted to force a pay cut on public sector employees, while simultaneously stripping them of their collective bargaining rights. Program director Richard Fung says he chose the film for the fundraiser screening because it shows a community standing together in pursuit of a common goal, something he says he’d like to see more of in Regent Park.
“You see the community in Madison come together so quickly to stand up against Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill,” Fung said. “I wish we could get Regent Park together like that to deal with our issues. It is happening now, we’re starting to have community meetings now… But it shows how one small city can get together and have one big voice, and soon one small community in Toronto will get together and have one big voice.”