By David Fleischer: December 28, 2010 (original article)
York Region’s inaugural film festival was so successful, the man who started it has no choice but to keep his day job.
“It’s this massive thing I can no longer control,” Michael Bowe says. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds and bursting at the seams."
The outreach director with York Region Children’s Aid created a multimedia festival to give local artists an outlet and shine a light on York’s frayed edges.
The second festival is still five months away, but it’s growing so fast Mr. Bowe will soon have to share more responsibility organizing the event.
When it launched last December, the festival was supported by York Region, numerous local agencies and the towns of Georgina and Markham.
He already has the support of eight of the region’s nine municipalities, so screenings can take place nearly everywhere between Steeles Avenue and Lake Simcoe in 2011.
The partnerships Mr. Bowe formed with outsiders are also bearing fruit.
York University’s film department helped out last year by providing broadband technology that allowed films to be simultaneously screened in multiple locations.
That will expand in 2011, as will workshops the university hold for local students.
Funding from the province and other outlets is also coming more easily now that the festival has a year under its belt.
Mr. Bowe wants to see local agencies take a step back so a new, incorporated board of directors can take the festival to the next level.
“It’s for the community and it should be by the community,” he says.
He admits he was surprised by how quickly the community embraced the festival this year.
The festival’s theme, “Rich Tapestry, Mosaic Fragments,” aims to ensure quality films that take a closer look at issues impacting York.
More than 50 films were submitted and Mr. Bowe has no trouble recalling those that stood out.
David Fradkin’s “Shielded Minds” followed aboriginal youth confronting how their history is misrepresented at an Ottawa museum.
Georgina’s John D. Watson produced “Period Drama Episode 1 & 2” a French noir about a train crash survivor.
And Vaughan high school student Corey Stantan’s “@ Teen: Follow My Facebook” looked at his generation’s increasing fixation with technology.
Other documentaries, films and photo essays focused on a range of issues, such as the challenges faced by the South Asian community, farmers and youth.
But as much as Mr. Bowe was impressed by the work, what really sticks with him is the reactions of winners at the festival’s closing gala.
A class from Maple’s Discovery Public School leapt in the air and high-fived each other after winning an award and a group for Georgina Island — accompanied by elders, including Chief Big Canoe — had the ferry home re-scheduled so they could attend.
There will be a February deadline for 2011 submissions, with the festival taking place this spring. A new branding and the relaunch of its website will follow.
In the long run, Mr. Bowe hopes to see the establishment of a permanent film institute for the region, even if only exists virtually for the time being. By the time it becomes a physical reality, he will happily fade into the background.
At the end of the day, I’m a social worker, Mr. Bowe said.