BRAESHORE – The 2016 Sunrise Film Festival is in the books and may prove to be a hard act to follow.
Condensed to a single location this year – Pictou Lodge – the festival contained 97 submissions from around the world – from animated shorts and experimental pieces to documentaries and full length features with an appearance from a Baldwin brother to boot.
“We’re about making something special right here in Pictou County –and that’s important,” explained organizer Stuart Cresswell in remarks prior to the festival’s final screening session.
Where last year’s festival took place at multiple locations along the Sunrise Trail – including the River John Library and the deCoste Performing Arts Centre, Cresswell said the move to the single location of Pictou Lodge has been a popular one – with attendees, as well as the Lodge itself.
“The feedback is that this format works,” Cresswell said. “This venue is great, doing it this way is a good thing to do and we’re maybe learning that having three different things going on at the same time is perhaps not always the best thing to do. We’re learning, and I’m sure that when we go to do this next year it will be even bigger and smoother.”
Cresswell indicated that it is probable that the festival may return to Pictou Lodge next year, although satellite events may take place elsewhere along the North Shore.
“Certainly the Pictou Lodge would like (it) to be the end of season event for them, the last bit on their calender,” Cresswell said.
“And it’s a good way for their season to wind down and it would be good for us as well. The one thing I will say is we do still want to have events in River John, in Tatamagouche, in Pugwash, in Wallace. We still want to do those things as well, so it’s how we incorporate those things into a year of events as opposed to just one single event.”
In fact, the festival as well as his commitment to finding a place for film in the North Shore, and a place for the North Shore in film, earned Cresswell special recognition in the Nova Scotia Legislature from Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane.
Cresswell said he has been impressed with the involvement of filmmakers world wide in the festival with a special appreciation for the team behind The Red Maple Leaf. The film’s creative team not only chose to hold its Maritime – if not Canadian – premiere at the festival but also supplied the film’s director, writer, producer and lead actor Frank D’Angelo as well as supporting actor Daniel Baldwin.
Cresswell said the notion of having a film with major distribution, packed with Hollywood A-listers premiere at the festival – in only its second year no less – as well has having a Hollywood star in attendance was not something he and Troy Greencorn envisioned when they first brainstormed the idea of a film festival on the North Shore.
“D’you know,” Cresswell said, “it wasn’t. No, it wasn’t. (We pictured) filmmakers but they would all be filmmakers on a particular sort of level. We would not be getting Hollywood A and B listers here. So to get that already in two years is just outstanding.
“This is something really special,” Cresswell said. “There are places around the world that would be pulling their hair out to get an opportunity like this. What this can do for tourism for our region is going to be fantastic, but it needs everyone to support it.”
For Frances Barth, a painter and animator, the festival provided not only a place to screen her short film Jonnie in the Lake but also brought her to Pictou for the first time.
“It’s gorgeous here,” Barth said. “It’s amazing. It’s outstanding.”
Barth’s prior visit to Nova Scotia, she said, was 35 years ago when she spoke at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax to “defend painting”.
Hockey legend Phil Esposito – who portrays an ornery American sheriff in the movie The Red Maple Leaf – was announced to attend but was unable to in the end, however the film’s director, Frank D’Angelo, did arrange a brief phone call for one disappointed fan.
There were no complaints, however, with Esposito’s replacement, Daniel Baldwin. However a few attendees in the film’s Q &A panel remained hopeful that actor James Caan, who also appears in the film, would make a surprise appearance.
Baldwin – with all the fire, intensity and passion he shows on screen – took to the area quite nicely.
“It’s my first time in Pictou,” Baldwin confirmed, “(but) not my first time in Nova Scotia. I’ve lived in Canada, in BC for six years, I’ve shot in New Brunswick a number of times, I’ve been up to Newfoundland before, I’ve come up to Halifax before just to vacation. It’s beautiful. I like it up here. I like PEI. I’ve been all through the Maritimes. Yeah- yeah, I like it here.”
The film’s Q&A panel also featured actor Robert Miano, known for his role in Donnie Brasco and Baldwin’s spouse Robin Sue Hertz Hempel while a panel held earlier in the day following a showing of the Nova Scotian feature film Relative Happiness featured that film’s producer Alan Collins, Terrilee Bulger of Nimbus Publishing, as well as author and director Gary Blackwood who replaced Relative Happiness novelist Lesley Crewe in the panel.
From the left, left photo: Actor Daniel Baldwin with fiance Robin Hempel. Right photo: The Relative Happiness panel: author and film maker Gary Blackwood, Terrilee Bulger of Nimbus Publishing and producer Alan Collins. (Cameron photos)