Monday, June 22, 2015

NIFF round-up: Chardonnay, movies & awards in Niagara

The Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery before the screening of How To Change The World
Story and photos by Allan Tong

Away from the hurly-burly of Toronto last weekend was the second Niagara Integrated Film Festival which paired movies, Niagara vintages and gourmet food at wineries across the peninsula. From June 18-21, NIFF held wine tastings, five-course dinners and outdoor screenings as well as an Industry Day of film workshops headquartered at the posh White Oaks Resort and Spa in nearby St. Catharines.

The weather has been fickle this spring. On Saturday night, you needed to wear a blanket to watch a movie, but on Sunday you needed a fan. At least the wine and food, made by the wineries Peller Estates, Southbrook and Redstone, were superb across the board.

Directors Lulu Wang (Posthumus) and Andrew Lancaster (The Lost Aviator)

And the films? Oh, yes. They weren't bad either, including premieres of The Lost Aviator, The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship. NIFF attracted filmmakers across the globe, such as Lulu Wang who travelled from Los Angeles with Posthumus and Andrew Lancaster from London with The Lost Aviator.

The Filmalicious series paired a glass of wine with a feature film, including The Hotel Dieu, made by Niagara local Adrien Grenier, who took home the Niagara Rises Awards, and the Chinese-made family drama, Little Big Master.

Ontario's Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell (center) with NIFF organziers Sari Ruda (left) and Bill Marshall (right)

How To Change The World
screened at the historic Henry of Pelham Family Winery that Ontario's Governor-General attended. The acclaimed documentary chonicles the history of Greeenpeace, driven by its conscientious, but charismatic leader, Bob Hunter. Director Jerry Rothwell avoids making a treehugging advocacy piece and instead focusses on the various personalities to created Greenpeace in Vancouver in the early-70s. The archival film footage of illegal Russian whaling and cruel baby-seal hunting in Newfoundland is shocking and bloody.  Rothwell deftly weaves contemporary interviews with this footage to produce a riveting tale that's honest and complex and doesn't sugarcoat the environmental movement. There are internal politics everywhere you go and the green movement isn't immune to it. Hunter's daughter, Emily, was on hand to present the film Saturday, on the eve of Father's Day.

Emily Hunter, daughter of Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter (left) with Henry of Pelham co-owner Matt Speck

Without further adieu, the 2015 NIFF award winners:

NIFF Rising Star – Bel Powley – “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Best Feature  – “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” – Marielle Heller

Best Director – James Kent  – “The Testament of Youth”

Best Documentary – “For Grace”  – Directors Kevin Pang and Mark Helenowski

Best Male Actor – Patrick Stewart  - “Match

Best Female Actress –  Alicia Vikander  - “The Testament of Youth”

Best Family Film – “Little Big Master” - Director Adrian Kwan

Best Niagara Rises Feature – “The Hotel Dieu” – Director Adrian Thiessen (left, pictured with producer Kristen Nater)

RBC Emerging Artist Award ($2,500) –  Adrian Thiessen “The Hotel Dieu”

Best Niagara Rises Short – “Made In Bali” – Director Michael Pohorly

Niagara Rises Special Jury Prize – “The Cocksure Lads Movie”

World Smallest Film Festival Director’s Choice ($1,000)  Director Andrea Conte – “Many More Rivers To Cross”

World Smallest Film Festival Audience Choice (Samsung Tablet) – “Many More Rivers To Cross” -  Director Andrea Conte

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