It was opening night at the fifth annual Milton Film Festival, and from the moment the guests began to arrive at the First Ontario Arts Centre Milton it was clear from the size and energy of the crowd that this year’s Festival was going to be something special.

Offering “Something for Everyone” has always been the Festival’s goal and this year was no exception, with a diverse program of acclaimed feature films and shorts including quirky comedies, thought-provoking documentaries, and even a ground-breaking animated feature. Everyone knew they had a truly remarkable weekend of film to look forward to. The Festival’s opening feature was the British biographical drama BREATHE, about polio survivor and disabled activist Robin Cavendish. The film was the directorial debut of actor Andy Serkis who is best known for his motion-capture work in films like Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes. The audience clearly approved of his directing talents as there was barely a dry eye in the house.

One of the highlights of the weekend was Saturday’s screening of the Canadian comedy DON’T TALK TO IRENE, starring Michelle McLeod in her feature film debut as an irrepressible teenager with dreams of becoming a cheerleader. McLeod and director Pat Mills were on hand for a question and answer session after the film, and the audience soon discovered that Michelle McLeod is just as delightful in person as she is on screen. To top it off, that day also happened to be her birthday, and so she was duly presented with a birthday cupcake and serenaded with a group rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.

Other feature films shown on Saturday included the final performance of late great character actor Harry Dean Stanton in LUCKY, the charming and quirky BRIGSBY BEAR, and the evocative documentary DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME. The excitement continued Sunday with the French comedy hit C’EST LA VIE, and the Oscarnominated animated film LOVING VINCENT which was followed by a panel discussion featuring veteran animators Dale and Dave Cox. But the biggest buzz that day was for the Ontario premiere of ONLY 78 – a documentary by local Milton director Jawad Mir.

Mir was inspired to make the film after reading a story about a tiny fishing village in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia which was in danger of being swept into the sea because no level of government would take responsibility for their crumbling sea wall. Working on location with a small crew and a tiny budget, he managed to capture the true spirit of that community and draw his audience into their David and Goliath struggle. In addition to the feature films and panels, the Festival also presented seven exceptional short films that were each paired with one of the features. These ‘shorts’ ranged from a scary bedtime story to an interpretive dance in the subway, to a documentary about turtles which ended up winning this year’s KKP Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film. The winning film, entitled FIX AND RELEASE, profiled the work of the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough. It was directed by Toronto filmmaker Scott Dobson, who gave such a memorable and impassioned introduction to the film that he was surrounded by fans after the screening wanting to know more about the turtles.

All in all it was a weekend to remember. The next Milton Film Festival will be held January 25-27, 2019. Check in at www.miltonfilmfest.com for news and updates.
Photos by: Sarah Arfan

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