Hidden Gems

This year the Kingston Canadian Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary! This festival brings incredible Canadian films to the limestone city every year. This year’s event runs from March 11-15. The festival does more than screen films, it also features Q&As, workshops, networking events, and live music. Tickets go on sale February 4 but in the meantime, learn more from Festival Director Marc Garniss. In our chat below Marc shares his all-time favourite festival film, which celebrity speakers are expected this year, and other fun details movie-goers can look forward to.

Tell me about the Kingston Canadian Film Festival and your role in the annual event?

The Kingston Canadian Film Festival is the globe’s largest all-Canadian film festival, entering its 20th anniversary season, March 11-15. I am the Festival Director.

Why do you think Kingston is a great venue to host the festival?

Kingston is a great place to host a film festival. We have a beautiful downtown core with everything centrally located. We attract a number of visitors from places between the Toronto-Montreal corridor that may not have a film festival in their market – so, they embrace KCFF as their hometown/local fest. I think the fact that we’re an all-Canadian festival adds to the feeling of ownership. At KCFF, audiences hear the stories of filmmakers from all regions of Canada. They represent subjects that may be familiar and stories that are relevant and important to us as Canadians. Of course, a number of the stories also help shed light on subjects that are unknown to some Canadians. So, the tone of the programming is familiar, yet exploratory.

What do you love most about the film festival?

I love how the fest captures so many moving pieces that are ultimately framed into a final piece of programming. We work all year, liaising with filmmakers, visiting other festivals, and chatting with artists. Some films have release dates that line up with the festival and others do not. Some guests confirm a year in advance and others may not confirm until the week of the KCFF. So, while we pride ourselves on being organized (my staff is at least!) there’s an element of chaos involved in an event like this that keeps it exciting. Let’s call it an organized chaos!


All time favourite film that has participated in the film festival?

I have only been involved in the fest since 2012. But, my favourite film that we have played would be Simon Lavoie’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches.


What are you looking forward to at this year’s festival?

I’m a big Kids in the Hall fan and Kevin McDonald will be doing his one-man show and I’ve already got my ticket for that one! Plus, we just confirmed our opening night title — but at this time — I can’t leak that info!


What’s your favourite film festival venue in Kingston?

My favourite venue is The Screening Room! Of course, The Grand and the Isabel are beautiful and we love working with their amazing teams. But, when it comes to hunkering down for four days of binge-watching Canadian films, it’s hard to beat the coziness and charm of The Screening Room. They just installed the “Overlook Hotel” (The Shining) carpet in one of their theatres – so, that alone seals the deal for me!


What do you want the general public to know about the festival?

That’s easy. Canadian film is the best in the world! While I may have a slight bias, it’s worth noting that Canadian film is winning awards in France (Cannes), Berlin (Berlinale), Edinburgh (EIFF) and other major festivals across the world. When I travelled to EIFF a couple years ago, there was a huge spotlight on Canadian film. Most films that dominate North American commercial theatres are just thinly developed eye-candy. KCFF is a rare opportunity to see many of the amazing Canadian films that are drastically underseen (especially on the big screen) but are among the best in the world according to critics and international audiences. And, the best part is, you don’t need to be a “film nerd” to enjoy these films! Most festival patrons would identify as an average movie-goer. Of course, the longer one attends KCFF, the more sophisticated your tastes may become, haha!


Guests/speakers that you are most excited about this year?

Sean Cullen, Kevin McDonald (Kids in the Hall), Don Shebib, Andrea Bang (Kim’s Convenience), and likely about 100 others! Most of our films are accompanied by a post-show Q&A with the director, cast and/or crew. This is one of the highlights of the festival – you can ask your questions and get to know the film making team after each screening. Generally, our special guests are very accessible and love meeting and chatting with our audience, both formally during the Q&A period, and informally afterwards in the theatre lobby or at a festival party. The festival brings together so many interesting people into small venues during four action-packed days – it’s a great way to meet both locals and visitors, connecting over some films, and stories and their creators. It’s a recipe for an amazing experience.


Anything you’d like to add?

Our festival lineup is announced February 2 and tickets go on sale February 4. While you can often buy tickets at the festival, lots of screenings sell out (especially during our prime time screening slots). So, we recommend folks pick up tickets in advance if they can! They’re available on our website (kingcanfilmfest.com) and also in-person during certain days/times leading up to the fest. All the details are on our website!



When you walk along King Street’s waterfront on a beautiful summer day, you will see a crowd of summer-loving beachgoers of all ages shaking out their towels, jumping into Lake Ontario, holding their toddler’s hands as they wade and splash into the shallow pebble beach; friends digging into their box lunches from Juniper Cafe (it’s just around the corner) or walking hand-in-hand over the pedestrian bridge towards Gord Edgar Downie Pier. It’s a sight that truly encompasses the spirit of summer in a city that values its access to Lake Ontario.

Today, Breakwater Park can be used by just about anyone for anything. There are grassy hills to enjoy a picnic, lots of sand for the full beach experience, a pier to make cannonballs off of over and over again as well as a shallow area perfect for young kids who might still need water wings. If you’re not much of a swimmer but like long walks or like to walk your dog with a view, you can do that here with the soothing sound of the waves crashing on the rocks in the background. It’s exactly what Kingston needs. A place for everyone to enjoy — from parasailers to sunbathers and everything in between.

In 2017, the “Great Lakes Challenge” encouraged communities to restore the lakes and that led to a $500,000 donation from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation to the Gord Edgar Downie Pier (located across the pedestrian bridge.) Once this donation was made, further funding from the City of Kingston and the provincial and federal governments helped broaden the scope of park improvements. This redevelopment is part of the Kingston Waterfront Master Plan and puts Kingston on the map as Canada’s first urban natural swimming pier.

If you’re wondering how the pier earned its name, The Tragically Hip’s late lead singer, Gord Downie, lived across from the original pier and was a board member and Swim Drink Fish ambassador. Swim Drink Fish is an organization that strives to sustain swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for everyone. They educate to empower people to safeguard their waters. Their efforts through Lake Ontario Waterkeeper launched in June 2001.  Sixteen years later once the Breakwater Park project was underway, Kingston City Council voted unanimously to name the renovated dock after Downie. The name “Edgar” was included in the naming of the pier to honour Downie’s father. His brother, Patrick, explained to reporters that it was a fitting tribute and that the park “has been the backdrop of our entire family life and the one constant through the good times and the bad. When we think of home, this beautiful piece of shoreline is what we think of.”

Thanks to all of the incredible efforts in restoring this site and making it a leader in swimmable, drinkable, fishable water restoration, this shoreline will continue to be the backdrop to amazing memories for Kingstonians and visitors for years to come. 


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