Welcoming, wonderful WIFF | Windsor’s annual fete of Canadian & international film

by W. Andrew Powell
2023 Windsor International Film Festival

Windsor is one of the most welcoming, community-driven cities, and it was a pleasure getting back for the 2023 Windsor International Film Festival to enjoy their celebration of cinema.

Kicking off last Thursday, the festival hosted over 180 feature films this year, with a number of exceptional Canadian movies, and new international highlights.

There are a lot of things that stand out about the festival, but returning to WIFF again I was impressed with the scale of it all. In a city with a population of over 230,000 people, I love the small-town vibe that you get at WIFF and around downtown Windsor. It’s so welcoming, with a lineup of films that is fascinating and filled with tremendous talent.

And on top of it all, WIFF has one of the kindest and most welcoming teams that I’ve ever met. From the volunteers to the staff, it makes the festival feel very refreshing.

Director Tran Anh Hung’s The Taste of Things opened WIFF on Thursday, and I loved this gorgeous feat of filmmaking. The film has so many quiet moments that draw you in, mouth-watering food captured in cinematic glory, and sublime performances by stars Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel. The beautiful film is one of my favourites of the year.

And while there are a number of films from around the world that are worth talking about, there was an abundance of excellent Canadian–and especially Quebecois film–at the festival.

In particular, I loved Atom Egoyan’s Seven Veils, director Guy Édoin’s Frontières (Frontiers), and Louise Archambault’s Le temps d’un été (One Summer), to name just a few.

Seven Veils is one of Egoyan’s best films, with a lot of texture, nuance, and gravitas. It’s difficult to know at times how to read Amanda Seyfried’s performance, and I mean that in the best way possible for this grim tale. Every operatic scene is like a lightning bolt.

Frontières is a taunt drama with a supernatural thread that draws the story together, and the super-star Quebecois cast captivates at every turn. The film is impressively warm, and yet chilling at the same time.

And Le temps d’un été has the most charming group of characters, with a fantastic soundtrack, including an acoustic version of a Pixies song that made me want to try and sing along. Thankfully, I resisted that urge, but the film puts you right beside this group of troubled, beautiful souls.

During the festival I also saw Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, and the documentary A Compassionate Spy about scientist-turned-spy Ted Hall. Each offers a vivid portrait of their subject. Priscilla is a forlorn look at Priscilla Beaulieu’s doomed marriage to one of the biggest stars ever. While A Compassionate Spy gives the audience a deep look into Hall’s life, and why he gave up nuclear secrets to Russia, and ultimately it lets you decide how to judge him.

Beyond the films, I had some wonderful conversations with filmmakers and other press about their favourite movies, their own work, and cinema as a whole. It was an enlightening weekend, and it was very easy to get caught up in this great love of cinema that was around every corner.

I also have to say that WIFF executive director and chief programmer, Vincent Georgie, was so welcoming. It’s difficult to overstate the impressive work he’s doing at the festival. Every year he watches over 600 feature films and then puts together the schedule himself. With over 180 feature films this year, it’s amazing to see how he weaves a story with his schedule.

While WIFF wraps up this weekend, if you’re a film lover you should keep an eye on next year’s dates. This year’s festival ran from October 26 to November 5, so you can expect similar dates in 2024, and the festival lineup is usually announced around the start of October.

Windsor is a quick flight, a little road trip, or a leisurely train ride away from many places in southern Ontario. The festival celebrates their 20th anniversary in 2024, so it’s going to be a fantastic year to join them and all of the other movie lovers.

Thanks to WIFF and the entire team there for their hospitality and the fantastic experience.

WIFF Spotlight Award winner Philippe Falardeau with Vincent Georgie, WIFF executive director
WIFF Spotlight Award winner Philippe Falardeau with Vincent Georgie, WIFF executive director

Photos courtesy of the Windsor International Film Festival.

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