The Grizzlies is based on a Cranbrook resident Russ Sheppard’s work as a teacher and lacrosse coach in northern Canada. It will open the 11th annual Reel Canadian Film Festival on January 25, with Sheppard to host a Q&A. Supplied

Fernie film festival tickets selling fast

Local links to films, shorts featured in 11th annual Reel Canadian Film Festival lineup

Fernie film buffs are snapping up tickets to this year’s Reel Canadian Film Festival, with early bird passes selling out in record time.

Showcasing the best of Canadian independent films, the annual event features three days of screenings, shorts, children’s programming, special guests and receptions from January 25-27.

The newly formed Reel Canadian Film Society has been working closely with the Toronto International Film Festival to select new releases from TIFF’s catalogue. Committee members also reached out to filmmakers and distributors they have forged connections with over the past 10 years.

“While ‘Canadian’ technically refers to films with Canadian funding, we have expanded that definition to include films that have any kind of Canadian connection, from locations and directors to acting and technical talent,” said Society president Rebecca Hall.

“Through industry research, we discovered that one of our selected films, The Etruscan Smile (Saturday 7 p.m.) had a screenplay by Michael McGowan, who was in Fernie to open our first ever festival in 2009 with his film One Week.

“We’re very excited to be able to secure the Western Canada premiere for this film, which has only been shown a handful of times in North America but has already won several awards.”

Another film with a local link is opening night feature, The Grizzlies, which was inspired by a Cranbrook man.

As a young teacher in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Russ Sheppard introduced a group of Inuit youth to lacrosse in an effort to motivate them and combat the town’s high rate of youth suicide, addiction, and social problems.

The team took to the sport and eventually competed at a national level.

Sheppard is now a lawyer with Rockies Law in Cranbrook and will attend the opening night feature, and reception on January 25.

“We are looking forward to hearing all about his experience first hand at the Q&A,” said Hall.

“We are very pleased that our festival will be opened by Mayor Ange Qualizza and Janice Alpine of the Ktunaxa First Nation.”

Also showing at the 11th annual Reel Canadian Film Festival are sci-fi film Clara, French language feature La disparition des lucioles (The Fireflies Are Gone) and documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes.

Hall said two shorts featuring local content will be screened prior to the closing film on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Cryptic Hive is the latest production by local filmmaker Alex Hanson and Jupiter (Any Other Way) is from Shred Kelly’s latest album, Archipelago. We are sure the stunning vocals and spectacular scenery around Island Lake Lodge will be fantastic on the big screen.”

For the first time, the Society will offer a cash bar throughout the festival, with beer, wine and cider on sale at the Vogue Theatre for 45 minutes prior to each film.

The festival will also travel to Sparwood as part of Winterfest. La Bolduc will screen at the Sparwood Golf Course on February 2 at 7:30 p.m.

“We were so happy with the response to our pilot Sparwood screening last year and are very pleased to be able to take the festival to our neighbours once again,” said Hall.

Festival-goers are encouraged to buy their tickets well in advance.

“We are really encouraged by the response to this year’s ticket sales and are on track to exceed our record of festival pass sales,” said Hall. “We will be selling a very limited number of opening night passes in advance, and expect to have only a very limited number available at the door.”

Festival passes are available online at Eventbrite.ca and from the Fernie Museum (cash only) for $60. Individual screenings on Saturday and Sunday cost $10, while opening night passes are $20 and include the reception at The Arts Station at 9 p.m.

For more information, visit Fernielovesfilm.ca.

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The Woman Who Loves Giraffes tells the story of Canadian zoologist Anne Innis Dagg. Supplied

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