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Belleville Downtown DocFest: An Insider Look at Festival Planning

Belleville Downtown DocFest: An Insider Look at Festival Planning

“Volunteering with organizations like the Belleville Downtown DocFest is so important because it is events like this that bring a richness to our community. Not only does the festival allow us to view world-class cinema from some of the largest documentary festivals in existence, but also allows a platform for local independent filmmakers and student filmmakers to exhibit their projects, network and collaborate.”

Interview with Brittany Ollerenshaw, DocFest Volunteer

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How long have you been involved with DocFest?
My involvement with DocFest began as a local filmmaker in 2014. I submitted my first feature titled “Unravelling Vincent” and was thrilled to be accepted into the festival! The film had an accompanying art exhibit at The Parrott Gallery during DocFest where I also had the privilege of giving an art talk about the film. DocFest ignited my love for filmmaking again and provided this absolutely invaluable and completely accessible platform for local filmmaking projects. I had films in the festival two more times in 2018 with “Making a Musical” and in 2021 with the audience choice award winner “Harvesting Dreams”. 

This led me to reach out in the fall of 2021 asking if I would be able to join the Film Festival Committee to become more involved in this local gem. However at the time, just a few weeks into being on the committee I found that I wasn’t able to give as much as I wanted to the festival due to personal life events and working as a nurse during the pandemic and unfortunately had to back out of the project. This has bothered me ever since. I do not like becoming involved in something if I can’t give it my all and I was concerned after backing out of the committee that I would never have a chance to be involved in the festival in a non-filmmaking role again. Much to my surprise and delight, this fall I was asked if I would like to join the Film Selection Committee as a filmmaker member and I was over the moon.

Tell us about your role as a Film Selection Committee Member. What does that process look like?
As a Film Selection Committee member, we are granted access to all of the films submitted to the festival. For about 2 months we watch and review all of the documentaries. All Film Selection Committee members are granted access to a private spreadsheet where we input our review, rating out of 5 and other details about the film such as themes and information regarding subtitles. It is from the information on this spreadsheet that the films are booked. It is very exciting to be involved at this stage of the festival and to have the opportunity to view so many films. As a filmmaker myself, it feels like the best way for me to contribute to the festival.

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What’s your favourite part of the festival?
Choosing a favourite part of the festival is a very tricky task! I guess one would have to start with the Opening Night Gala at the Empire Theatre. You enter into a buzzing atmosphere as you see people lining up with their tickets watching others be interviewed on the ‘green carpet’. Then, you are treated to the opening night music documentary following a live music performance. What a way to kick off a festival! I also love that you have the option to watch films in person or virtually.

For a wide variety of reasons, not everyone is able to come out to in-person screenings so continuing on with the virtual festival is really important I think. I think my most favourite part of the festival is that DocFest provides different events alongside the showing of films. Throughout the years I have enjoyed filmmaking network events, filmmaking workshops, gallery exhibitions, art talks and filmmaker Q&A panels. There is so much going on that you won’t want to miss.

Why should someone consider getting passes to DocFest this year?
For any documentary lover who really wants to make the most of the festival, a pass is a must! There are many options depending on what you are interested in available online with excellent descriptions to pick what’s best for you. In-person pass holders also receive a discount on virtual screenings. If the in-person passes don’t work for you, the virtual pass is a great option too as you have 24 hours to finish a film and can snuggle in with your family or friends to take in some of the best documentary cinema of the year. Regardless of how you enjoy watching cinema, there is a pass that will work for you. I will see you at the Gala on February 23rd!

The 13th Annual Belleville Downtown DocFest takes place February 23-28, 2024 with the in-person weekend from the 23-25. Passes are now on sale and can be purchased online here.

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A collection of all our stories from the BOQ

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Let’s see what we got!

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The Bay of Quinte RMB Land Acknowledgement

The Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board is committed to acknowledging, appreciating and understanding the Indigenous peoples’ historic connection to this land and to raising awareness by building relationships in collaboration with Indigenous partners and communities. 

We recognize and acknowledge that we are living and working on the traditional territory of the Wendat, Mississauga, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee which includes the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka (Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte) with whom we work in direct partnership with. 

This partnership focuses on the common goal of celebrating the region with the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka who are equal partners within the organization and at the Board of Directors table contributing to the mandate and operations.

This mandate includes listening to, learning from, and collaborating with the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka and actively incorporating their culture and heritage into the practice of responsible destination marketing and management of the region.

We understand that this land acknowledgement is only a small step towards the larger process of reparations and reconciliation.

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