In the early years, the Society independently booked films with distributors and booking agents directly but in 1994 they entered the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) film circuit. Before the Kamloops Film Festival became a reality, in the early 1990’s, a PR officer, from the local ski resort Sun Peaks, approached the KFS with the idea of bringing the best of the Vancouver Film Festival to Kamloops.
Meanwhile, a Vancouver organization called ‘Moving Pictures’ headed by John Duppong, began a travelling film festival throughout the BC interior. In 1992, Duppong approached the KFS for support on Shadows on The Wall: The Meeting of the Waters Film Festival, an event held over three days in two separate venues on opposite sides of the city.
The partnership continued and, in 1996, the third edition of ‘Moving Pictures’ The Travelling Canadian Film Festival stopped in Kamloops for the first time, March 29-31, and included Canadian and French dramatic film released from 1990 to 1995 plus documentaries and short films. Three film and short film directors featured in the festival – Michael Gibson (Defy Gravity), Gary Burns (The Suburbanators) and James Genn (Direct Lines) – were invited to the special event Short Cuts & Long Shots, a workshop about getting started in filmmaking.
A year after, the Kamloops Film Society took up the role of ‘Moving Pictures’ and organized their own first KFS Film Festival. From 1997 to 2000, the first editions of the festival brought to Kamloops movies from Canada, United States, Belgium, Italy, United Kingdom and Spain. Directors such as Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), Bruce Sweeney (Dirty) and Ryan Bonder (DayDrifit): producers like Rosamon Norbury (Better Than Chocolate) and actress Gabrielle Rose (The Five Senses) visited Kamloops, attended the showings and accepted Q&A periods.
In the early 21st century, the Kamloops Film Festival (KFF) welcomed productions from Israel, Iran, Taiwan and Japan. Awarded film productions such as Lars Von Trier‘s Dancer in The Dark (Palme d’Or and the Best Actress award for Björk at Cannes Film Festival in 2000), Pedro Almodóvar‘s Talk To Her (Best Original Screenplay at the 2002 Academy Awards and the Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards) and Philippe Falardeau‘s The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge (Best Canadian First Feature Film at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival) were also featured in the festival.
Between the 8th and the 11th editions (2004-2007), the annual KFF, which is usually held by the end of February or start of March, featured documentaries such as Step Into Liquid, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, Ballets Russes and Shut Up and Sing, about the band Dixie Chicks. Film titles included Elephant, A Very Long Engagement, The Italian and Hank Williams First Nation, which was awarded at 2004 Nashville International Film Festival (Best Music Award) and featured at the KFF in 2006, sponsored by the Kamloops Indian Band. Additionally, a Children’s Animated Mini-Film Festival sponsored by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) Library celebrated in 2005.
In the last four editions, the festival featured a wide range of productions including animated films (Persepolis, The Secret of Kells and The Illusionist), documentaries (Inside the Circle, My Winnipeg, How To Boil a Frog and The Whale) and awarded films (The Kite Runner, I’ve Loved You So Long, Lebanon and Melancholia). One of the most successful films featured in 2011 was One Big Hapa Family, by Vancouver-based animator and filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearn. It was a documentary film, without national or international distribution, focusing on the propensity for Japanese-Canadians to marry outside the Japanese community. The film features members of the Kamloops Japanese-Canadian community. The Kamloops Japanese Cultural Centre promoted the showing and its Taiko Drummers performed before the film.
In March 2013, the 17th annual Kamloops Film Festival will continue to build on this long history with the best in Canadian and international independent film.
This piece was originally written for the Kamloops Film Festival festival guide in 2013, which was distributed by the Kamloops Daily News newspaper, ahead of the event. Read the printed version on Pinterest.
As part of the coverage for the independent student newspaper The Omega, I reviewed the French animated comedy-drama film Ernest et Célestine. I was a Journalism exchange student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), you can see this experience on my Spanish blog #fromkamloops.