June 13, 2016
NIAGARA FALLS, ONT. – A movie shown in a vineyard is part of the unique offerings of the Niagara Integrated Film Festival, which will run here through next Sunday. This year’s showings include more than 20 film premieres, with documentaries, dramas, action, thrillers, romantic comedies and family films.
The festival was created in 2014 by Bill Marshall, the founder of the Toronto International Film Festival, and is named “integrated” because hopes are to incresingly pair Niagara’s world-famous wineries with new Canadian and international films. This year, one participating vineyard will be the setting for a screening. Moviegoers will be able to take in a show under Niagara’s summer sky, with a glass of wine in hand. Festival planners are hoping to grow winery participation in the coming years, but all 2016 locations are licensed for alcohol and there will be wines served at all locations.
“NIFF quickly became a ‘must-see’ event in a region that’s already world famous for its ‘must-see’ attractions. In 2015, more than 9,000 film buffs took in nearly 50 Canadian and international movies,” said Robert Lalonde, festival manager. With the currency where it is, Americans can go to this international film festival at 30-40 percent discount, he said. “That’s a pretty good deal,” Lalonde added.
Now in its third year, NIFF has already carved out some summer traditions of its own. Due to the continuing support of Walt Disney Studios Canada, the festival will feature a screening of Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Dory,” the animated undersea adventure of Dory, a blue tang, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. In her return to the big screen, Dory is living with Nemo, voiced by Hayden Rolence, and Marlin, voiced by Albert Brooks, when she remembers she has a family that might be looking for her. The trio embarks on a life-changing adventure across the ocean to a California marine life rehabilitation center and aquarium.
There will be a special charity screening of the Disney-Pixar’s latest animated hit on Friday at the Partridge theatre in the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines. In 2015, a sneak preview of the Academy Award-winning “Inside Out” was one of the festival’s most popular events.
NIFF also forged a partnership with the Italian Contemporary Film Festival for 2016. NIFF will host one of ICFF’s marquee events — the premiere screening of “All Roads Lead To Rome,” a love story starring Italian legend Claudia Cardinale playing the mother of American sweetheart, Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex in the City.” Cardinale, famous for her roles in some of Italy’s most popular films of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including “Rocco And His Brothers,” “Girl With A Suitcase,” and the Federico Fellini-directed “8 ½,” will be the guest of honor at the presentation of “All Roads Lead To Rome.”
Another highly anticipated film, starring Jude Law, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, is called “Genius.” It’s a period piece about the man who edited the work of noted writers, including Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgeralds, Ernest Hemingway and other. That film is showing at 9:30 p.m. Friday, at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines.
As part of the screenings and premieres at this year’s NIFF, there’s also a Filmalicious event hosted at Trius Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where movie goers can enjoy a glass of wine and popcorn under the stars and view “All Roads Lead to Rome,” starring Cardinale, who will be in attendance.
The festival will also be holding an industry day, Friday, with a wide network of people attending who work in all aspects of the film industry. That day will include several panel discussions, starting 9 a.m. through 5:30 p.m., with food and drink included. Attendance at that event is $40 for students and $75 for non-students. Attendees must be 19 or older. “It’s going to be an exceptional event with filmmakers from around the world,” LaLonde said.
For tickets and a full listing of programming, visit niagarafilmfest.com.