This year’s Barrie Film Festival will be unlike any other.
For one, it’s not in Barrie. Neither is it in a theatre.
Instead, viewers can spread out in the safety of their own vehicles as they take in flicks on the big screen at the Sunset Drive-in in Oro-Medonte Township alongside Highway 11. The festival’s 23rd edition goes back to its roots, with a truncated program featuring four events over the course of an extended weekend.
Like all organizations, the Barrie Film Festival was challenged by limitations imposed by the pandemic, both strategically and financially.
“The whole film industry has been affected as well. Acquiring films and researching films has been an interesting journey,” said festival director Claudine Benoit. “It’s kind of taking us back to our roots in a number of ways, because the festival started as a weekend event years and years ago.
“The reality is we’ve had to make cuts like everyone else," she added. "Without the sponsorship, we wouldn’t have been able to hold the festival.”
And although there is alway a risk that the elements may impact the experience of film buffs, the movies will roll rain or shine at dusk.
But Benoit says patrons will still be treated to the Canadian and uniquely local touch.
Thursday’s feature, Percy, starred Christopher Walken as a Saskatchewan farmer. On Friday, Spread Your Wings will fill the screen. There’s a double bill Saturday with the short-film contest and the Simcoe County-filmed Anything for Jackson. The event is rounded out with Heroic Losers on Sunday.
Benoit points to Saturday’s short-film competition as an example of how diverse the offerings can be, from local and emerging contributions to those by established filmmakers side-by-side on the same night with about five local filmmakers on hand.
“And the horror film that follows is directed by Justin Dyck. He’s from Barrie and it’s a film that he shot in the region,” Benoit said. “It’s really creepy. It’s a great thing to show at the drive-in.”
Dyck, as well as Anything for Jackson screenwriter Keith Cooper will be on hand along with the film’s star, Sheila McCarthy, and other cast members in a physically distanced Q&A.
Part of the film was shot in Barrie’s Uptown Theatre, also the original home of the city’s film fest. Theatre space was completely redesigned as a children’s bedroom and served in some particularly haunting bits in the film.
Barrie’s old movie theatre property is being redeveloped and festival organizers have been looking for a new home, but the Sunset Drive-in has accommodated as weather allows.
In addition, Benoit said, the organization is looking at expanding its streaming program, which it launched during the pandemic with documentaries, allowing patrons to watch in their own homes.Check out the website for film schedule and tickets.