C/O Art Gallery of Hamilton

The Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Festival moves online amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

By: Samantha McBride, Production Assistant

Every year film enthusiasts and creatives alike descend on Hamilton for the Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Festival.  This event promises local and international feature films, short films, competitions and other programming. The festival is also an opportunity for the Hamilton community to support independent artists and engage with an international circle of storytellers.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s festival has undergone major changes. The festival is currently running from Oct. 16-25, 2020 and is entirely online using the platform, Eventive. Most of the films are available on-demand but there are also live online events.

“It’s very important for us to continue to support the creators as well as help the community to see new films that they might not see anywhere else . . . [Films are] a window into someone else’s world and someone else’s experience and it’s an important medium for us to understand the world around us and the experiences other people have in our world,” said Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Curator Ryan Ferguson. 

“It’s very important for us to continue to support the creators as well as help the community to see new films that they might not see anywhere else . . . [Films are] a window into someone else’s world and someone else’s experience and it’s an important medium for us to understand the world around us and the experiences other people have in our world,” said Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Curator Ryan Ferguson. 

One of the more notable live events is the festival’s youth film challenge, an opportunity for anyone under the age of 25 to submit their short film to the festival. The youth challenge is a chance for young filmmakers to showcase their work to the community and beyond. One film from the category will be selected to receive the audience choice award for standout film. This year’s youth and family film challenges will be livestreamed on the last day of the festival. 

The festival’s 21 short films are being offered at no cost in categories of six to seven films. These short films are eligible for the audience choice award, given to the film voted best by the audience. 

The festival also includes a number of works from local and Canadian filmmakers. One of these works is the world premiere of La Toccata created by Hamilton interdisciplinary artist Radha Menon. La Toccata is set in Sicily and explores the Western obsession with youth and beauty. It is particularly fitting at this time when the pandemic has exposed the individual and systemic lack of care for the lives of elderly individuals. 

“[I]t’s all about beauty so [the film is] made to look beautiful . . . because we are obsessed with beauty and it’s that beauty that draws us in . . . [I]t has been created in our mind that the ageing process is something to be feared, mine included, everybody, it’s so drilled into our psyche . . . [I]n my culture elders – well especially used to be, not so much maybe anymore because Western influences – were revered and the grey hair meant wisdom. But now, we shove our elderly behind closed doors, segregate them so we don’t have to see them or be with them and it’s quite foolish because we could be learning from all the wisdom that they have,” Menon explained.

Menon was excited to premiere this work in the city that she calls home, even if it is only online. While she knows audiences will be missing the experience of being in a theatre, she thinks it is valuable to have the opportunity to see what creators are working on during this time. 

Ordinarily, the festival is geared toward the Hamilton community but as it shifts to an online event, other audiences have the opportunity to partake in the diverse programming lineup offered by the AGHFF. The move to online creates a more inclusive festival for those who would not ordinarily be able to visit the Hamilton area.

“It’s exciting for us to have the opportunity to share what we do every year here in Hamilton with people all over the province,” said Ferguson. 

“It’s exciting for us to have the opportunity to share what we do every year here in Hamilton with people all over the province,” said Ferguson. 

Overall, the festival promises an interesting online experience for audiences with exciting ways to get involved. Although audiences are not together to watch the films, the community remains united by the stories told.

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