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A Passionate Celebration of Independent Film

Screening at the Finlandia Club • Credit: Bay Street Film Festival
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A Passionate Celebration of Independent Film

The Bay Street Film Festival

Independent film has been a part of Thunder Bay's cultural fabric for over 100 years.

The Bay Street Film Festival is a celebration of local independent film making that has been a part of the cultural fabric of Thunder Bay, also known as the Lakehead, dating back to early 1900s.  From the Hollywood productions of the 1920s, the films of the famed Dorothea Mitchell, to a long established film program at Confederation College and a resurgence of local film making over the last 15 years, Thunder Bay has a reputation for film production.

If independent film is your passion, you will definitely want to plan a trip to Thunder Bay in early September to take in this grass roots cultural event staged in the historical Bay Algoma Neighbourhood.

This year’s festival, now in its 12th year, is set for September 15-18, with afull schedule of events showcasing short and feature films. The Finlandia Hall on Bay St. operated by the Finlandia Assocation, is the centre for all the activities of the festival, from attending the screenings to the gala opening (party), master classes, talks, performances and the general festive spirit.  You will find yourself mixing with local filmmakers and with some independent producers from other countries around the world.

Film buffs have an opportunity to talk with local and foreign filmmakers about their processes and ambitions. A few years ago, local film students discovered from a Mexican film crew, that in order to give the appearance of their actors falling down a steep slope, the crew dug up the trees and replanted them at an angle to make the hill appear steeper than it actually was. This made the scene easier to film and safer for the actors.   

The program guide is available on the Bay Street Film Festival website, and will aslo be available in print as a four page exclusive in the September issue of the free publication The Walleye, which is available at any coffee shop in town. Going green, no brochures will be printed. Fees for films individually are $8 (or pay what you can) and the pass for all films is an amazingly low $25.

The festivals openings begin Thursday afternoon with a retrospective, usually at 2 pm, and later in the day with a couple full length feature films in the Finlandia Hall located above the Hoito restaurant.

On the same night in Prince Arthur’s Landing, there will be a gigantic outdoor screen where films are shown free to the public as part of the city’s Movie Nights on the Waterfront series, where locally produced festival short films are previewed before a full-length feature film. With more local film production happening in Thunder Bay it is likely this film will be locally produced. Friday night is the shag, a party and dance that will go late into the night with a live band and other fun activities. Saturday and Sunday features the bulk of the program and activities.

The films at Bay Street are considered “films for the people,” where a public jury process allows for a great variety of films, generally not of any theme, but progressive in mind, where documentaries mix with fiction films that often explore the realities of our day.

Films are occasionally grouped into themes or by country or continent. Past film groupings have included Finland, Mexico, Iran, Spain, Africa, Eastern Europe, and many others. Often the professional film-makers will join with the novices from their country to give talks in the Hall. Festival organizer and filmmaker, Kelly Saxburg says, “We’re all about local, but we share out talent and stories with the entire world – we’re international as well.”


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