Nfld. & Labrador

Nickel Film Festival goes virtual for 20th anniversary

The festival will run online until July 31, with a new film available every 24 hours.

Films will be streamed online, with a new film available every 24 hours

One of the local films being shown at the Nickel Film Festival is Taking Root, a documentary about the world of foraging directed by St. John's filmmaker Lauren Mills. (Submitted by Devin Shears)

Although COVID-19 has postponed myriad film screenings and festivals this year, the coronavirus isn't stopping the annual Nickel Independent Film Festival from highlighting the best and brightest Newfoundland and Labrador film has to offer.

The festival, usually held at the LSPU Hall in St. John's, will run online until July 31. Unlike past years, all films will be streamed and accessed through virtual tickets, offering a new film every 24 hours. Films from many different genres are represented, including short films, animation and documentaries.

Devin Shears, the festival's director of programming and communications, said organizers are excited to be able to move online and open new possibilities for the Nickel.

"We're disappointed that we can't be in our normal home of the LSPU Hall, but we were able to move everything online this year," he said. "We're really actually quite excited to be able to share with an even broader audience than usual that way."

Shears said planning an online festival during COVID-19 has come with challenges, but all the work has paid off leading up to the beginning of the festival earlier this week.

"[There's] a lot of communication, a lot of making sure filmmakers feel comfortable with putting their work online," he said. "And of course getting the word out to people to make sure people know about it.… This is new to people, but so far it's actually going pretty smoothly."

Devin Shears, the festival's director of programming, says bringing the festival online can provide new opportunities for films to be seen outside Newfoundland and Labrador. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

This year's festival will feature 60 new works from filmmakers across Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as other countries, including Japan, Cuba and areas of Europe.

Two local films include Taking Root, a documentary look into the world of foraging directed by Lauren Mills, and Wheels of Life, a look into adaptive bicycles for seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Wheels of Life, a short documentary by Andrea Cass, will stream online at the Nickel Independent Festival on July 27. (Submitted by Devin Shears)

The festival is also diving into the archives to show films previously screened at the Nickel, including 2001's Bingo Robbers, created by St. John's filmmaker Lois Brown.

"Bingo Robbers from Lois Brown was one of the first films that we ever played at the Nickel," Shears said. "It's, I think, a really unique film … and this year especially because it's actually our 20th edition, we wanted to look back at some of the films that have made the festival what it is today."

We're always looking for who are the next people coming up.- Devin Shears

The Nickel's five-minute documentary challenge, which gave filmmakers four weeks to write, shoot and edit a short documentary that will be shared with online audiences during the festival,  continued this year.

"I still feel confident that people will find a way to make independent films through this [pandemic], 'cause that's what the spirit of independent filmmaking is," Shears said.

The Nickel New Voices program will also continue this year, providing resources to underrepresented voices in the local film community. Several films from the program have been screened at the Festival, including Roller Coasters, a new film by St. John's filmmakers Maryanne Aghalu and Santiago Guzman.

"We're extremely proud of that program," Shears said. "I'm really proud that we're able to grow [and] cultivate what the independent film community in St. John's looks like."

"There's a lot of great established filmmakers in Newfoundland that we're always super-excited to screen and promote, but also we're always looking for who are the next people coming up."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton

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