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The Canadian Film Fest Showcases Homegrown Cinema

March 20, 2014

By John Corrado

The Birder PosterA celebration of homegrown independent cinema, the eighth annual Canadian Film Fest is taking place at The Royal Theatre in Toronto this weekend, starting this evening with the premiere of Patch Town and closing on Saturday night with the appropriately titled Afterparty.

Between these three days, the festival will screen a total of six features and fourteen shorts, providing an invaluable opportunity for those interested in Canadian independent filmmaking.  Below are my thoughts on four of these films, including the opening and closing night selections, which should give you a good taste of what to expect.

You can get more information on the Canadian Film Fest and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

Patch Town: Expanded from a short film, Patch Town follows Jon Franks (Rob Ramsay) a worker at a factory run by the evil Yuri (Julian Richings) that harvests babies from cabbage patches, before freezing and selling them like dolls.  When Jon discovers that he also started life as a doll before having his memory wiped, he sets out to find the woman (Zoie Palmer) that left him behind.  Although Patch Town is a genre mashup that mixes elements of strange fantasy, offbeat musical and twisted social satire in a way that I sometimes found awkward, I have to applaud director Craig Goodwill for sticking to his own bizarre vision.  Everyone from the cast to the talented production designers was clearly dedicated to the project, and this is a mildly worthwhile experimental film that could easily find a cult audience.

Thursday, March 20th – 7:00 PM @ The Royal Theatre

The Birder: A dedicated birder and high school teacher, Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) has always dreamed of being Head of Ornithology at Point Pelee National Park.  But when the job is given to his young rival Floyd Hawkins (Jamie Spilchuk), Ron teams up with his former student and high school janitor Ben (Mark Rendall) to get revenge, a young stoner who has reasons of his own to get back at Floyd.  With a solid cast that includes appearances from Fred Willard and Canadian icon Graham Greene, The Birder is a well made and incredibly likeable comedy from director Ted Bezaire.  Easily the most polished and widely accessible of these selections, The Birder is a charming and very entertaining film that is a standout at the festival.

Friday, March 21st – 7:00 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Play The Film: Taking place almost entirely in real time, Play The Film is a slight comedy set on the opening night of a much buzzed about new stage production.  When a missing prop gun leads to a drastic change of plot, we are left to witness the ensuing chaos both backstage and in front of the audience, as the clashing actors struggle to improvise their way through the story.  As the plot grows more convoluted, the play ultimately becomes a way for them to publicly sort through past disagreements, much to the chagrin of their pompous director Alec Hess (Kristian Bruun).  Although the premise is kind of clever and the unpredictable nature of the titular play keeps things moving, Play The Film often feels amateur and the story drags a bit despite the brief 79 minute running time, making this is an occasionally amusing but often uneven homegrown experiment.

Saturday, March 22nd – 4:15 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Afterparty: This brings us to Afterparty, the closing night selection, and a fine choice to end the festival.  After his brother’s wedding, Charlie (Graham Coffeng) gets his old friends from high school back together for a celebration at the newlywed’s house.  They spend the night drunkenly hanging out, which inevitably leads to them reevaluating their relationships, as the story unfolds entirely on the property.  But what starts as an entertaining and occasionally mundane character study turns into a heartfelt look at people in their thirties trying to find meaning in their lives.  The mainly improvised dialogue offers some beautifully real passages under the good direction of Michelle Ouellet, and the attractive and relatively unknown cast all turn in believable performances, as Afterparty reaches a surprisingly touching conclusion.

Saturday, March 22nd – 8:45 PM @ The Royal Theatre

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