Forty-eight years of movie magic from the Concordia Film Festival

The longest-running student film festival in North America won’t let a pandemic hold it down

‘Vestige,’ directed by Gabriel Werneck, featured in this year’s ‘Spotlight: Experimental’ screening. Courtesy Concordia Film Festival.

The annual Concordia Film Festival is putting fears to rest in the film industry about whether festivals are a thing of the past. This year’s 48th edition is as strong as ever, despite the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic, and will be taking place online from May 6 to May 9.

“It was a little scary, we weren’t sure how many films we would get, or if people were even making stuff,” said Vincenzo Nappi, one of the co-directors for CFF this year. “So, when we got just a mountain of submissions, it was such a relief.” 

The Concordia Film Festival, in its 48th year, is the longest-running student film festival in North America, and plays a large role in connecting film students with professional opportunities.

“It’s so important because the sponsors are most interested in looking at who is coming out of university to work in the film industry,” said Lana Chammas, co-director of the festival. “They look at who is providing excellence—from how the festival is made, all the way to the filmmakers. It is an opportunity for everyone to learn and get their chance.”

According to Chammas, festival attendance will be very different this year.

“We were hoping to do a sort of hybrid festival,” she said. “But with the numbers [of COVID-19 cases] being what they are, we felt it was safer to be online.” 

‘The Curtains,’ directed by Firat Onar, featured in this year’s ‘Spotlight: Visions’ screening. Courtesy Concordia Film Festival.

The entire festival will be hosted online, on the platform Eventive, and is free to attend. However, there is limited virtual seating, so just like in a real theatre, make sure you’re on time! 

The festival will have a little something for everyone: fiction cinema, experimental cinema, documentary, and animation. You name it, the festival probably has it! There is even something for the audiophiles among us. 

“I would highly encourage people to look out for the music,” said Jad Orphée Chami, a highly celebrated composer who is serving as a jury member for the festival this year. “The majority of the films are composed by real composers, some of whom are directors themselves or music students from Concordia, who are doing tremendous work.”

“For me, it’s about embracing these ‘other’ narratives, these non-linear narratives, the non-western visions of time and representation.” — Rodrigo D’Alcântara

Although Concordia students made the majority of the films, international films will also be screened. One such film is Capikarã, made by Brazilian filmmaker Rodrigo D’Alcântara, which is being shown in the 'Visions' section of the festival. 

“I believe the impotence of 'Visions' is to embrace the experimental nature of the artistic media,” said D’Alcântara. “For me, it’s about embracing these ‘other’ narratives, these non-linear narratives, the non-western visions of time and representation.” 

'Visions' seeks to represent otherwise underrepresented filmmakers, but it is not the only category where people can see incredible works of art made by a diverse range of people—there are several different categories with dozens of films just waiting to be watched. 

There will also be three talks given, called the CFF Talks, which will be taking place over Facebook. The CFF Talks will cover a wide variety of topics that film enthusiasts will want to tune in on. 

‘Once We Were Lovers,’ directed by Ariane L’Heureux, featured in this year’s ‘Mel Hoppenheim Film 1A’ screening. Courtesy Concordia Film Festival.

The first Talk is moderated by Vincenzo Nappi and is about making a feature-length film with a tight budget. It will feature Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer, whose debut feature Dead Dicks won the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Audience Award. It also won in the best screenplay category at The Blood in the Snow Film Festival.

The second CFF Talk will be with Jeff Barnaby, the mind behind Blood Quantum, a film currently nominated for 10 Canadian Screen Awards. Moderated by film scholar Randolph Jordan, they will be discussing the use of genre to form social commentary. 

The third and final CFF Talk is a collaboration between CFF and the Film Production Students For Inclusivity & Action. Moderated by Emem Etti and featuring Ayanna Dozier, it will discuss Black identity through the lens of cinema, and how to do better. 

All the information one might need in order to go about attending the festival and its talks can be found on the CFF’s social media accounts under the name @ConcordiaFilmFestival.

It seems that despite the fact the world is still in the midst of a global pandemic, the artistic world is as alive and full of potential as ever, to be seen on full display this week at the 48th annual Concordia Film Festival.