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New independent film festival lands in Chilliwack

The inaugural Chilliwack Independent Film Festival features 29 films and runs Nov. 18-19

A young English filmmaker who recently moved here is putting Chilliwack on the map with B.C.’s newest independent film festival.

The inaugural Chilliwack Independent Film Festival (CIFF), founded by Taras Groves, will be running Nov. 18 and 19 at Cottonwood 4 Cinemas.

The 28-year-old has family in Chilliwack and moved here last year after visiting several times.

“It’s just so beautiful. I really love Chilliwack and being a filmmaker as well,” he says. “I love that North American aesthetic — the small town, the mountains. I’ve always wanted to live here.”

He has been interested in filmmaking and directing for more than 10 years, and since he’s new here, he wanted to meet other filmmakers.

“It’s a great way to bring filmmakers together to Chilliwack. Also Vancouver is like the Hollywood North, but the Fraser Valley doesn’t seem that represented film-festival wise — especially independent films — so I really wanted to bring that together and put them on the map.”

It all started a year ago when he announced CIFF on filmfreeway.com, which he says is like Facebook for filmmakers. He was able to reach out to some of the site’s 250,000 filmmakers. He received more than 100 submissions, and with help from the Chilliwack Creative Commission, they narrowed it down to 29 films.

The films are from all around the world, including 12 from B.C. alone.

He says CIFF is “completely different” than the Chilliwack International Film Series (which wraps up this week) in that the films featured in CIFF are low- or zero-budget movies.

There will be two full-length feature films at CIFF, one that will open the festival (Empty Space, a film from Chicago) and the other to close the festival (Raw*, a B.C. film).

RAW trailer

In between, CIFF offers two-hour blocks of shorter films organized under the categories of Canada Shorts, Stories From Around the World, Weird and Wonderful Shorts, and Final Shorts, plus there’s a feature documentary (Shiners, a New York film). Each short film block features five to seven films — they are a mix of short documentaries, music videos, animation, and about 20 other shorts.

Included in the 29 films will be one of Groves’ own entitled Nowhere. It’s a story about a homeless man, struggling to survive on the streets of London, who finds his world is changed forever when he meets a troubled young runaway with a dark past.

Nowhere is Groves’ second award-winning film. He made his debut feature film in 2015, The Profesional (misspelled on purpose), which he wrote, directed, filmed and edited himself. Nowhere is much shorter at 30 minutes long. It was shown at several film festivals including the Manhattan Film Festival and the Cannes Short Film Corner. It won Best Story at the New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam, and Best Score in Marbella Film Festival in Spain.

Nowhere trailer

Since this is the first year for CIFF, all films will be shown on one screen in one theatre. The festival is broken down into several two-hour blocks over the two days with about 30 minutes at the end of each block for a Q&A with various filmmakers.

“The big draw is each block there will be a filmmaker present to talk about the films,” he says, adding that more than half of the films’ directors will be in attendance at CIFF.

Costs for the film festival have been kept low, including ticket prices. At $25 for a full festival pass, it’s less than a dollar per film.

“The whole point isn’t to make money, it’s to try and stimulate the economy and bring filmmakers here,” says Groves.

Tickets are $15 for a Saturday day pass, $10 for a Sunday day pass, or $5 per block. There will also be an awards night on Sunday following the closing feature film.

“I just want to get bums in seats and have people there to support [the independent film industry],” says Groves. “The goal is to not only bring filmmakers here but make them shoot their films in the future here, and build connections.”

In future, he sees CIFF getting “bigger and bigger, but whilst still remaining true to that independent film spirit.” He’s hoping CIFF will grow into a week-long event 10 years down the road.

The Chilliwack Independent Film Festival starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18 and goes until Sunday, Nov. 19 at Cottonwood 4 Cinemas.

For more info, including film schedule, tickets, trailers, and the full lineup of films (each with run time, synopsis, and origin), go to ciff.ca.

Trailer for Empty Space:

Empty Space trailer

Trailer for Shiners:

Shiners trailer

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