“… they have, in five short years, created a public event you could no more cancel than you could cancel Valentine’s Day.” – Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail
When the article quoted above was published, that’s when we knew.
We knew there was a huge appetite for a cultural celebration that allows us to embrace our own stories; and we knew that Canadians are beginning to think of it as a national institution!
It’s not very Canadian of us to toot our own horns, but we’re proud of the way NCFD has grown over the past five years. This year, we doubled our social media engagement when compared to last year’s numbers. That means that even though we held fewer events than we did for our massive sesquicentennial edition, more people are taking NCFD seriously as a part of the cultural calendar across Canada! That’s something worth tooting a horn about!
As many of you know, we had a number of large events with special guests and filmmakers participating across the country. And we’ve shared a few of the social media highlights from our big day. But today, we wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain of NCFD and share some of our team’s personal favourite moments!
Our biggest daytime event this year was RCtv, which was broadcast live from the CBC Atrium in downtown Toronto to 171 high schools and over 12,000 participating students across the country, with special guests Don McKellar, Liane Balaban and Elan Mastai. When we connected live to John Oliver S.S. in Vancouver, Elan (The F Word), reminisced about playing against the John Oliver basketball team when he was in high school. The students were so delighted to meet a successful screenwriter and novelist who came from their very own neighbourhood, that they didn’t even hold it against him that he’d attended a rival school!
In Toronto, one of the highlights for our Admin Manager was getting to play a game of T’Aboot with filmmakers Patricia Rozema and Don McKellar (he was everywhere this year!), as they waited for Patricia’s Q&A to begin after a screening of I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing at The Revue. Don felt the game was “easy”, but you can judge for yourself by downloading it here and giving it a whirl.
In Vancouver, female filmmakers took our spotlight on women to heart and honoured each other in a series of heartfelt “moose kudos”. This initiative was the brainchild of our BC Production Manager, who always cooks up fun West Coast surprises for us. Here’s one from Sonja Bennett (star of the upcoming heart-warmer Kayak to Klemtu, by Heiltsuk/Mohawk filmmaker Zoe Leigh Hopkins).
This year, we wanted our partners to have a wealth of fun ways to enhance their screenings on their own. So, we came up with the “digital party kit”, a one-stop-shop for games, quizzes, a “do it yourself photo-booth kit” full of printable props, and much more. One of our favourite items in the photo-booth kit was the set of Canadian celebrity face masks that our Graphic Designer came up with. We were delighted to get photos from every corner of the country of people having fun with the masks and other photo props.
What we didn’t expect was for the Canadian celebs whose faces were featured to get in on the fun!
We also hoped some people would cut out and assemble the custom NCFD popcorn boxes we designed, but we didn’t expect to see it happen 13,000KM away! That’s right, the High Commission of Canada in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, tweeted us a pic of their welcome table, chock-full of NCFD popcorn boxes for attendees of their screening of Reel Injun.
Across the country, people made NCFD their own. At the Hay River Film Festival, in Hay River, Northwest Territories, a screening of the classic Strange Brew featured a Bob & Doug McKenzie costume contest. Meanwhile, the Calgary Underground Film Festival’s screening of the classic horror-comedy Blood & Donuts was accompanied by a Q&A with legendary cinematographer Paul Sarossy and – what else? – donuts for the audience!
Themed snacks were to be found elsewhere across the country too. At a film-industry gathering on the West Coast, our team served up famous Canadian snack items like ketchup chips, Hawaiian pizza, Hawkins cheezies, Okanagan apples, and of course some BC wines and beers to a delighted crowd. We hope they saved room for some butter tarts and nanaimo bars for dessert!
This year, the most popular film was Maudie, the award-winning drama based on the true story of Maud Lewis, one of Canada’s most iconic folk artists. It screened a whopping 125 times across the country on April 18th!
In Toronto, the film screened for an audience of new Canadians, with producer Mary Young Leckie in attendance. When Mary stepped up on stage for her Q&A, she surprised everyone by calling up a very special surprise guest – Maud Lewis’s real-life great granddaughter, Tammy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the end of that Q&A!
Even Parliament got into the NCFD action, when MP Arif Virani made a statement in the House, encouraging everyone to celebrate and announcing his intention to attend the screening of I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing in his own riding of Parkdale-High Park, Toronto.
You might know that our partners at the Vancouver International Film Festival hosted a 25th anniversary screening of Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould, preceded by a Skype conversation with star Colm Feore. What you probably didn’t know is that this was one of the very last NCFD screenings of the day, and it took place around midnight Toronto time – right in the middle of our after party!
Colm was in Toronto celebrating with our team, so when the time came for his Skype, he stepped out into the freezing cold hallway with a couple of our staff members, who doubled as his “Skype crew”.
Our Operations Director shone a flashlight while our Executive Director used his phone as a camera, and Colm plugged in his headphones to better hear the Vancouver audience. The resulting conversation was full of entertaining anecdotes from the accomplished actor. And then the team went back into the party for a well-deserved drink, and to toast to the official end of NCFD 2018!
And now, a few words from our screening partners …
Since April 18, feedback has been pouring in from every corner of the country. Here are just a few of our faves:
“NCFD allows us to bring a big slice of awesomeness to our little village of Eganville.” – Bonnechere Union Public Library, Eganville, ON
“Incredible event celebrating Canada’s rich cinematic past across the nation. Rock on!!” – Fantasia International Film Festival, Montreal, QC
“NCFD is an event that brings together folks from all walks of life. It is an event the community looks forward to and gets excited about.” – Emerging Lens Film Festival, Halifax, NS
“I am sure I am not alone when I say thank you! We love it and our customers love it, so thanks again!”– The Movie Mill Inc, Lethbridge, AB
“This was our second annual National Canadian Film Festival Day and it was a BIG hit!! … The day ended with many students asking me, ‘When is the next film festival?’” – St. Alfred School, Mississauga, ON
“This festival is the best-of-all! In fact I have twisted all my rhymes into contortions out of the sheer joy of it. Thank you.” – Spryfield Community Association, Halifax, NS
“If we don’t promote Canadian productions, who will? Our very modest organization has worked hard over the past few years to present outstanding movies to our local community. National Canadian Film Day is a significant contribution to our efforts. Thumbs up to REEL CANADA!” – Central Canada Film Group, Flin Flon, MB
“NCFD is a fantastic initiative that brings together Canadians across the country to celebrate the talent that has exists in Canadian film. We are extremely grateful.” – Whistler Film Festival, Whistler, BC
“National Canadian Film Day brings us together from coast to coast to coast, and allows our youth to unite in a common goal – to feel a part of each other’s stories … National Canadian Film Day should be integrated into the curriculum as deeply as Remembrance Day and Aboriginal studies.”– Emery Collegiate Institute, Toronto, ON
“These are the kind of movies rarely shown in our local commercial theatres. Kudos to REEL CANADA for helping make this happen.” – Quinte West Public Library, Trenton, ON
“NCFD is a wonderful, annual event we look forward to each year. It just keeps getting better and better!” – Cheryl Antonio, University College of the North, The Pas, MB
We wish we could mention the hundreds of additional National Canadian Film Day events and thank every single person by name! But the list of supporters of every kind would literally be thousands of people — incredible, generous and enthusiastic Canadian film fans from around the world. So we’ll just say a heartfelt “THANK YOU!” from the bottom of our hearts to every one of you.
For more details about events that happened near you and across the country, visit canfilmday.ca and check out the #CanFilmDay hashtag on social media for stories from around the world.