Showcasing homemade films at revived festival ‘just feels right’ for Eastern Shore community
Event returns to Seaforth for first time in seven years
November 29, 2022, 2:48 pm ASTLast Updated: November 30, 2022, 2:06 pm
It may be called the Seaforth International Film Festival, but the focus at this Eastern Shore event is purely local.
After a seven-year hiatus, the festival returned Saturday evening to Seaforth, a small community about 35 kilometres east of Halifax. The event previously ran from 2007 to 2015, but stopped because the previous organizers started a family.
In 2015, Aviva Troemel of Seaforth submitted her first film to the festival. In its absence, Troemel said she bugged other people to restart the event.
“After a while I was like, well, I guess I’m going to do it,” Troemel said.
Troemel decided to bring back the festival herself in 2022.
‘Special’, ‘fun’, and ‘kind of weird’
In the community hall on Saturday evening, 12 short films adding up to about 45 minutes total screen time were screened for an audience of about 50. Many genres were included, from experimental to comedy, and history to horror. Audience members watched raptly throughout the screenings, cheering for familiar faces that flashed across the big screen.
Anyone was welcome to submit films, and the theme this year was Eastern Shore community. The festival included several award categories along with an audience choice award. There was even a highly contested best dressed award.
Guests at the black-tie event walked in on a red carpet. During breaks in screenings, the hall was filled with chatter and laughter between neighbours and friends as they took Polaroid snapshots at a photobooth featuring a Hollywoodesque film festival backdrop.
Troemel said the atmosphere was intentional.
“Let’s make this special, let’s make this fun, let’s make it kind of weird. But at the same time, something people take very seriously,” Troemel said.
Many of the films were shot on a phone, and all the filmmakers received an award in a lively ceremony following the screenings. Categories included the typical best soundtrack or experimental film, but also best last-minute film, which went to a filmmaker who had finished editing in the parking lot just before the event. A short documentary on a pet rooster took home best spiritual film.
An accessible outlet for creativity
Kate Lightstone is a filmmaker who lived in Seaforth, and works for another film festival on the South Shore where she now lives. She took home an award for best surfing film after presenting Caralee, which documented a friend in the local surfing community.
“To be an emerging filmmaker, and have your stuff be shown in a community you used to be a part of . . . it’s really exciting and just feels right,” Lightstone said.
Lightstone said that amateur filmmakers might feel discouraged to submit at larger festivals. But at Seaforth, where every film submitted is screened, many new filmmakers have a space.
“It allows people to show their artwork, maybe only for their neighbours and friends, but maybe that gives them the confidence to then submit to somewhere bigger.”
Despite being a local event, one audience member, Troemel’s former film professor, traveled from Ontario. Scott Henderson is the dean and head of Trent University’s Durham campus, and addressed the crowd in a speech.
“I was so pleased to see how much the community was behind it, the turnout was phenomenal,” Henderson said in an interview after the screenings.
Henderson noted how vulnerable filmmaking can be, but admired the supportive nature of the crowd.
“You’re trying to show a side of yourself, and you don’t know how the audience will react. People were just so appreciative of every single thing they saw.”
Hannah Villash recently moved to Seaforth, and attended the event with some friends in hopes of making more.
“I wish we would have put a film in, but next year for sure!” Villash said.
Troemel said planning has already begun for 2023, and she hopes to expand to multiple days and include filmmaking workshops.
“I think that people really missed it. This is the feeling I got from tonight, that people were really happy it was happening again,” Troemel said.
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