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Behind the Screens: An Interview with KCFF's Executive Director

By Tianna Edwards

The Kingston Canadian Film Festival is just around the corner! The largest festival in the world dedicated to Canadian Film kicks off on February 28 and runs to March 3. Founded in 2001, this festival is about more than cinema.

Festival goers can participate in workshops, Q&As, networking events, parties, concerts and more. Downtown Kingston comes alive with events dedicated to the missions of the festival.

Executive Director, Marc Garniss, took some time to share what he feels makes the festival so special, his advice to new attendants, which films he’s most excited about and which are creating the most buzz!

Tianna Edwards: Tell me a bit about KCFF and your involvement in the festival. What do you feel makes it so special?

Marc Garniss: KCFF is the globe’s largest all-Canadian film festival and this season is the 24th edition, February 28-March 3. I’m the Executive Director, so I oversee an awesome team that makes the festival tick!

The fact that we showcase all-Canadian titles makes it special and unique in comparison to other festivals. Our festival is rooted in the downtown core and we attract lots of special guests (filmmakers, cast, crew) during the festival.

TE: How much does the Kingston community influence the nature of the festival?

MG: Quite a bit. We have lots of sponsors and volunteers and without them the Fest would not happen. We also have some dedicated programs for local filmmakers to ensure that films being made in our region have a platform, as well. Our Local Shorts Program, for example, usually showcases 10-15 films made right here in Kingston or by folks with a significant connection to Kingston.

TE: KCFF isn’t just about the movies, it really gets Kingston buzzing with events. Share a bit about how important the social part of the festival is?

MG: Yes, that’s another piece that makes the Fest much different than a regular weekend at the movies. We have many receptions and networking mixers, live music and comedy, and other events that may be a bit more social in nature, giving audience members and filmmakers a chance to meet others attending the Fest. Our post-screening Q&A’s encourage discussion and often this is carried on further in the venue lobbies, while people are standing in line, and beyond the theatre.

TE: Which films are you most excited for this year? Which films have the most buzz?

MG: I am personally excited to play The Queen of My Dreams, Kanaval, both of which are in my “top 10 of the year” which is just something fun I do with family and friends.

I would say Past Lives likely has the most buzz. It was just nominated for some Golden Globes and I expect it to have some Academy/Oscar nominations, as well. The film was released earlier last year and is one of the older titles we’re playing, but it’s so good and has so much buzz, and has an interesting connection to Kingston. Celine Song, the Director, is South-Korean/Canadian, but she actually studied Philosophy at Queen’s University and lived here throughout her undergrad! Because of this interesting connection to Kingston, we decided to play the film, even though it was not filmed in Canada.

Past Lives (2023)

Kanaval (2023)

TE: What is your advice to someone who has never attended KCFF? Do you have tips on how to make it the best experience for someone who doesn’t work in the industry?

MG: The thing is, the majority of our audience are just regular folks who like movies, so there is no prerequisite to be a film industry worker, or an academic, or a major movie nerd! I’d try to choose some films where there will be a guest in attendance for a Q&A, that’s always a special addition to each screening. I’d also try and watch more than one film per day - try a 6-Film Pass and try to experience a few different genres that you wouldn’t normally check out. Most times, it’s an unlikely pick that ends up being a festival favourite…I know it works that way for me!

TE: This is the world’s largest all-Canadian film festival. Tell me what you feel makes Canadian film so important?

MG: I don’t know if Canadian film is more important than films being made from other countries, but I know that Canadian films are drastically underseen. I believe only 2 or 3% of our “national box office” is spent on Canadian films and you very seldom see these films in the commercial theaters. And yet, many of these films are winning awards around the world and are top-tier movies!

Many of the films we play (whether documentary or narrative feature) are about Canadians or at least tell the stories of Canadians living from coast-to-coast-to-coast…or sometimes Canadians living in other countries around the world. Many of these stories and voices go largely unheard, so it’s important to give a platform for them. 

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Tickets and Festival Passes go on sale at 7 pm on Friday, February 2!

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Tianna Edwards

Tianna is a wife and mom of two young kids with a day job as an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Coordinator at Queen's. She takes pride in living in Kingston and loves celebrating all things local (mostly food related!) through her blog, Keep up with Kingston. Follow Tianna's blog for more local food, culture and shop inspo. Get the latest from her over on instagram.

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