By Emily Stonehouse
Haliburton County is known for many things. The landscapes, the lakes, the…film festivals?
The Haliburton International Film Festival (HIFF), ran this past weekend, from Nov. 3 to 5 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavillion.
Featuring six full length films and two shorts – all previously featured at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2023 – organizer Tammy Rea believes that the festival brought some of the best of the best to the community.
“We wanted to choose films that weren’t on Netflix or Amazon Prime,” said Rea, “we were seeking films that were a little more off the beaten track.”
But while the films were unique and varied, Rea noted that there was a consistent theme to them all: hope. “Coming out of COVID, everyone has been on a journey,” she said, “and we wanted to leave the world with a little bit of hope.”
The weekend kicked off with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, about a man’s journey to happiness, and finished with the Old Oak, about a small community accepting Syrian refugees.
“The festival starts with a single man’s journey, and ends with a community journey,” said Rea, noting that the selection of films is done with purpose and meaning.
“We were very aware of the bookends of the weekend,” she said. “What’s opening and what’s closing are so important to a film festival.”
Rea noted that the entirety of HIFF wass a journey from start to finish, with the movies in a specific order for specific reasons.
That is why the majority of movie-goers this past weekend had purchased the full weekend pass. “We sold over 120 passes,” said Rea, “and that’s just perfect. That’s how people can really get the full experience of the festival.”
With the 120 passes sold, it was assumed that there would be some space in the theatre for drop-ins, but on opening night, the organizers found themselves turning people away at the door, with the theatre fully packed. “This is a good problem to have!” laughed Rea as she introduced the first film, and tried to find seating for all those who showed up.
The organizers also took the time between each show to discuss the film, and hosted a question and answer forum with the audience. That’s why the full weekend pass was the way to go for those interested in discussing the selection, and connecting with like-minded film buffs.
Rea said that the core of the festival was about “celebrating the journey”, noting that as we emerge from those pandemic days, the need for understanding and appreciating other people’s journeys is at an all time high.
“We all need to have an appreciation for the journey people are on,” said Rea, “and we need to recognize that everyone is on a completely different journey.”
Some of the topics outlined over the duration of the weekend included but were not limited to mental health, LGBTQA2S+, aging, food insecurity, homelessness, and immigration to name a few. Each film was designed to highlight either an individual or group journey, and leave the audience feeling wowed and inspired about the future.
To tap into that feeling in a productive way, Rea made a handout for each movie-goer to bring home, which offers ways they can channel their hope, and give back to the community. “These are big issues that we talked about in these films,” she said, “they’re big, but they still offer hope. So we wanted to highlight organizations you can support in the community.”
Rea encouraged everyone to sign up for Those Other Movies newsletter, where she not only keeps fans up to date with the coming events and experiences, she also sends out recommendations for films that folks can stream from home.
More information can be found at www.thoseothermovies.com.