Reason #57 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

The Cinema

By Emil Tiedemann

Every time I drive down 111th Avenue, past the former A1 Trading pawn shop, I think about David Woolfson. He was a Jewish immigrant who ran the pawn shop on the corner of 94th Street, and he was the focus of Rosie Dransfeld’s Broke. documentary. 

Shot entirely at A1 Trading, the movie was a raw look at the real desperation of many of his shop’s inner city clients, focusing on an Aboriginal regular named Chris Hoard. The pair sparked up an unusual kinship, giving way to moments only real life could script. 
The screening of 'Broke.' at the then Global Visions Film Festival.

Broke. kicked off the 2009 Global Visions Film Festival (now called Northwestfest), Canada’s longest-running non-fiction film and art fest, screening mostly documentary features and shorts since 1983, when it was known as the Third World Film Festival. This wasn’t my first film fest in Edmonton though, nor would it be my last. 

Shortly before Global Visions, a couple of buddies and I had checked out DEDfest: Edmonton’s Horror Festival, the reincarnation of 2008’s Deadmonton. We sat in the Citadel with our beers and snacks, and set in for a five-hour marathon of scary movies and short films as the packed theatre howled every time someone on screen was bludgeoned to death. 

And of course, there’s the Edmonton International Film Festival, which originated in 1986 as a three-day event called ‘Local Heroes.’ By 2003, it became the EIFF, moved from March to September, and expanded to ten days of feature-length and short dramas and documentary films. 

My favourite part of the EIFF has always been the free screenings that kick off each season in the open air of Sir Winston Churchill Square. That was my first experience with the EIFF, sipping on hot chocolate under the night sky, watching Edmonton-born Anne Wheeler’s Bye Bye Blues (which was filmed in Edmonton) with a good friend of mine. 
Edmonton filmmaker Anne Wheeler's 1989 film 'Bye Bye Blues.'

When it comes to the movies, it doesn’t get much better than that. Edmonton is full of memorable cinematic moments, visionary locals spreading the joy of film and movie-making with Edmontonians through our diverse festivals that focus on everything from the Aboriginal (Dreamspeakers Film Festival) and LGBTQ+ (Rainbow Visions Film Festival) communities, to shorts & featurettes (Edmonton Short Film Festival), and even food flicks (RelishFest). 

Actually, some of the films that screen at these festivals are also produced right here in town by imaginative filmmakers, many of which were made possible by the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta. FAVA is a not-for-profit that exists to “facilitate and support the creation, exhibition, and distribution of independent film, video, and media arts in Northern Alberta.” It’s an essential organization for Edmonton’s filmmakers and media visionaries, perhaps the very stimulus for Hollywood’s next big thing. #yegfilm


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