Halifax Independent Film Festival draws large crowds for in-person screenings

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The Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival returns this week for its 16th year with in-person screenings for the first time since the pandemic began.

Evan Bower, the festival’s programming coordinator, said there was a great audience.

“These are definitely the kind of movies you want to see with a crowd,” he said. “You know, they’re very deliberately paced, challenging at times. So it was just wonderful to be back in the dark room, fully focused on the movies and enjoying them with a group of people.”

The festival which ends on Sunday features a number of international films. But on Saturday evening, nine short films from regional creators will be presented at their Atlantic Auteurs event.

“That’s really the basis of the festival. It started out as a short series of local screenings, and that’s still what draws the most people,” Bower said.

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Animated short film by Jenny Yujia Shi This does not allow re-entry is screened on Saturday.

The film follows three travelers on a surreal journey. Shi used cut paper and drawings to create the stop-motion image.

It is based on her experience moving from Beijing to Halifax in 2009. She obtained a series of visas before being granted permanent residency after several years.

Jenny Yujia Shi made a film about her immigration experience in Halifax. (Victoria Welland/CBC)

“This movie was kind of a really good opportunity to reflect on that experience and, I think, wrap it up emotionally and be ready to embrace a new or larger subject,” Shi said.

Tonight will be Shi’s first time seeing his film on the big screen. As a new filmmaker, she looks forward to meeting other industry players at tonight’s event.

“The film community is made up of people who may come from different backgrounds, working in different mediums,” she said. “But we share, in this part of our practice, filmmaking as common ground. And just being able to connect in that way, I think, will be a very special experience for me.”

‘Experimental work’

Bower said the festival allows local filmmakers to be creative and explore unconventional ideas.

“Filmmakers are encouraged to do more experimental work and take more risks with the films they make,” Bower said.

A large sign reads 'Halifax Independent Film Festival' with blue and red graffiti behind the letters.  A mannequin wearing sunglasses, a red hat, and a t-shirt with the name of the festival sits on a table above the panel to the left.
Bower says the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival is a place for creators to experiment and explore. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

After the screening of Atlantic Auteurs, there will be an after-party open to the public. “I think that’s when it’s really going to hit home, we’re back in person and we’re doing this.”

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