Film fest turns lens on itself for milestone year with Windsor Star’s 15 for 15

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WIFF is reeling in the years.

For its 15th anniversary, the Windsor International Film Festival is taking a nostalgic look back at its transformation from cash-strapped upstart to cultural phenomenon with the Windsor Star’s 15 for 15.

The pre-roll, shown before every film, mixes film posters with Star archive photos to chronicle the festival’s humble beginnings, explosion in popularity, and massive growth with off-shoots including WIFF 365, WIFF Alley and WIFF Village.

“It’s a great walk down memory lane to see the amazing evolution of the film festival,” said Nick Shields, co-owner of Suede Productions, the film and CGI company that created the video. “Not only a sheer growth based on the numbers. That’s impressive.

“But I think what is truly impressive when you look over the years is how many sponsors joined on, how much community support joined on, how many subtle off-shoots. It’s a non-stop positive evolution of a film festival.

“And it’s not the kind of festival that is pretentious, that is a competition and all those other things. It’s just this amazing community-based, volunteer-based festival.”

Vincent Georgie, executive director of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) is shown at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, October 31, 2019. He is eager to kick off the big event. Dan Janisse / jpg

The 15th annual festival begins Friday, expanding to 10 days with 165 films screening at three venues.

While celebrating the past, organizers are also looking ahead.

During last year’s seven-day run, fans bought 28,574 tickets to 143 movies. That made WIFF the largest of the 166 volunteer-run festivals on the Toronto International Film Festival Circuit.

Organizers expect 2019 sales to dwarf last year’s record.

“We’re expecting to sell about 40,000 tickets for 165 different feature films, so I’m really, really pumped and the team is excited,” said Vincent Georgie, WIFF’s executive director and chief programmer.

“Just in terms of pre-sales and attention and tourists coming in and hotel packages, we can just sense it’s a much, much bigger festival.”

Vincent Georgie, executive director of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) is shown throwing popcorn at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, October 31, 2019. He is eager to kick off the big event. Dan Janisse / jpg

He said the addition of a three-day party at WIFF Village and the creation of WIFF Alley, where the festival and community partners installed lighting, graffiti, and signage, will also draw more people.

“People are looking for an experience,” said Georgie. “They want to know they’re at something, and we wanted to expand the WIFF footprint. So WIFF Alley, by beautifying it, and making it amazing, that makes it cool and hip and lets us do things in there. Then WIFF Village, that whole tented experience, it creates a party atmosphere that will only attract more people.”

After so much growth and community love, WIFF wanted to celebrate where it came from, said Georgie. That was the motivation for Windsor Star’s 15 for 15.

“It turned out really beautifully because it gives us a chance to take a look at fantastic photos from the past, photos of past festivals and past venues and some of our volunteers,” he said. “It’s really quite lovely. The whole team this year is quite nostalgic because we’re all thinking back to how hard we’ve all worked, and all the past years. We’re just thrilled by it.”

Vincent Georgie, executive director of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) is shown at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, October 31, 2019. He is eager to kick off the big event. Dan Janisse / jpg

Shields also has a good excuse for being a little nostalgic this year. Besides being a consultant for WIFF when it started, he has a film playing at the 2019 festival. The Quick and Dirty, which he directed with Jordan Krug, runs Saturday at 8 p.m. The movie won best Short Feature at the 2019 Toronto Independent Film Festival.

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Shields said the pre-roll his company created is a few minutes long, but it could have been a feature-length film.

“We narrowed it down for 15 just out of the clever convenience of it,” he said. “But there were literally over 100 things that could be celebrated. The education part. Bringing in directors. I remember the very first year, Mark Boscariol paid out of his own pocket to bring film directors down to talk to people, to introduce them to Windsor. Where we’ve come from and how much support we’ve got since then, it’s pretty amazing.”

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Vincent Georgie, executive director of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) is shown throwing popcorn at a photographer at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, October 31, 2019. He is eager to kick off the big event. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star

RED CARPET GLITZ — Lorraine Matlock and her husband Keith Matlock look out at Windsor’s paparazzi as they enter the 2006 Windsor International Film Festival opening night at the Capitol Theatre on Nov. 9, 2006. The Matlocks, from Windsor, attended the event in support of the arts in the community. Jason Kryk / Windsor Star

Mark Boscariol sets up a poster at his night club The Room on Nov. 8, 2006, ahead of the Windsor International Film Festival’s second year. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

It’s show time! Windsor International Film Fest ticket holders wait in line for the sold-out screening of the movie Water on Nov. 12, 2005, at the former Palace Cinemas (now home of the Windsor Star) in downtown Windsor. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Volunteers Peter Coady and Mori McIntosh are shown Nov. 8, 2006, ahead of that year’s Windsor International Film Festival. Volunteers were putting the finishing touches on what would be the second year for the annual cultural event. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Local activist Peggy Noonan, the subject of the documentary “This is What a Feminist Sounds Like,” speaks during a panel discussion at the Windsor Star News Café on Nov. 6, 2013. The Star hosted a daily panel discussion that year for each day of that year’s Windsor International Film Festival. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Guests watch a film at the Nov. 7, 2012, opening of that year’s Windsor International Film Festival at the Capitol Theatre. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star

Louise Archambault, left, director of 2013 WIFF opening night film Gabrielle, poses with the festival’s Vincent Georgie at the Capitol Theatre, Nov. 5 , 2013. Nick Brancaccio / Windsor Star

Adding colour and culture to the 2009 opening of the annual Windsor International Film Festival, held Nov. 12, 2009, in the Augustus Ballroom at Caesars Windsor, were Nupur Jhankar dancers Manasi LaRiviere, left, Srushti Thaker and Veena Kottoor who performed earlier in the evening. Scott Webster / Windsor Star

Projectionist Chris Harrison keeps a watchful eye on the projector during the opening night gala screening of the 2008 Windsor International Film Festival at Caesars Windsor, Nov. 7, 2008. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

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