It is amazing to think that back when I was 14 years old and when you wanted to go see a movie, you only had four choices. There would be three movies to choose from at the Empire Theatre’s Triple Cinemas or one movie to choose from playing at the Vogue Theatre in downtown Sydney. And out of those four choices, none of them would be an independent film. When you only have four of Hollywood’s main features to pick from, it can get a little boring.
Before 2003, there was no theatre available to be able to go and see the “hidden gems” of the big screen. That was up until we saw the birth of The Cape Breton Island Film Series. This is a film festival that prides itself on only showing innovative and thought provoking independent films. What classifies a film as being “independent” is that most of its financing comes from outside of a major Hollywood studio. Some other key trademarks are that these “indie films” tend to have more artistic value and less reliance on the glitz and glamour one tends to see from a large budget movie.
“A friend of mine in Newfoundland was running a similar film festival,” said Parker Donham, creator of The Cape Breton Island Film Series. “I asked her how someone would go about doing this and she told me everything I needed to know. There were already groups around the Atlantic Provinces who were doing it as well. I learned everything from them.”
It was rare at the time to ever see movies like these in Empire Theatres. It makes sense to only show the most popular movies at the time when you have 10 screens to show them on. But, there are plenty of people who would love to see independent films. They were demanding it.
“Instead of showing a film like this 6 or 7 times a week, show it once a week and make an event out of it. And Empire does well in the deal too.”
Parker is very happy with the relationship between them (The Cape Breton Island Film Series) and Empire Theatres. He says, “Their staff is amazing. The film series has brought in close to 20 to 30 thousand people in the doors over its existence and the numbers do not lie. There is definitely a market.”
The first film that was shown was Bowling for Columbine. Parker remembers, “We blew the doors off the place for that one!” There have been some amazing films that have been shown during this festival. Parker recalls a German movie called The Lives of Others, which was amazing and March of the Penguins was a huge hit that everyone wanted to see.
“Audiences started out beyond our wildest dreams. And it’s very common for us to sell out. We have people thanking us all the time for bringing in these films.”
The Cape Breton Island Film Series has just started their 2010 season at Empire Theatres in Sydney. It runs every Thursday night at 7 pm. This week is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans starring Nicolas Cage. Ticket price is $9 adult and $6 student. The rest of the 2010 season is as follows: February 11 – The Damned United (UK / USA); February 18 – Broken Embraces (Spain); February 25 – A Serious Man (USA); March 4 – An Education (UK); March 11 – The Last Station (Germany / Russia / UK); March 18 – White Ribbon (Austria / Germany / France / Italy); March 25 – Precious (USA); April 1 – A Single Man (USA); April 8 – A Prophet (France / Italy); April 15 – Good Hair (USA).
For more information on the film series and reviews and trailers of the films, visit cbfilms.ca.