Published October 11, 2023

The Barrie Film Festival Starts This Weekend

Barrie Film Festival 2023

The Barrie Film Festival is back from October 13 to 22, 2023. 

This festival will take place at different locations throughout Barrie, with screenings at Galaxy Cinemas in the south end. 

Claudine Benoit, Director of the Barrie Film Festival, explains that the festival, which is celebrating its 26th edition, began with passion, like many organizations do. 

“It started with a small group of people that just loved movies and wanted to bring different films to Barrie and it started as a small project at the MacLaren Art Centre and then eventually grew to what it is today as an independent not-for-profit.” 

She goes on to share that this year’s event, like years before, will feature all different types of movies. “Everything from documentary to features and all different genres so it’s definitely something for everyone.”

Guests can also expect to see the return of popular events including:

  • International Short Film Showcase
  • Director’s Brunch 
  • Q&As 

The festival will also include pop-up parties where people can gather to talk about the films while enjoying great food and music. 

“[The Pop Up Parties are] really about having a party in an unexpected space.” Claudine continues, “We love bringing people to places that they don’t expect for parties. We’ll be bringing in the food and the music … it’ll be just something you’ll talk about.” 

If you’re a film enthusiast and want to check out the Barrie Film Festival this year, here’s what you need to know …

Opening Night 

The festival will kick off with a screening of Swan Song this Friday evening. The film delves deep into the unwavering dedication, creativity, and sacrifices of Karen Kain and the talented dancers of the National Ballet of Canada. 

After the show, guests will be invited to the annual launch party! The festival's organizers will be transforming an abandoned industrial space within the Cowden-Woods building, just a stone's throw away from the Galaxy Cinemas. 

At the event, you can indulge your taste buds with delicious treats courtesy of Cravings Fine Food & Catering and the Lazy Tulip, while DJ Casey George supplies the music. The event will be the perfect opportunity to enjoy lively conversations about Swan Song and the upcoming screening. 

The party begins at 9:00 PM (doors open at 8:30 PM). Tickets to the party will be sold separately from the film and include one complimentary drink. 

International Short Film Showcase And Awards

The Short Film Competition is one of the most popular events of the Barrie Film Festival. It will be returning this year and will be held on Saturday, October 14. 

“[The Short Film Competition] is a wonderful program because we get to see the work of a lot of emerging filmmakers,” Claudine explains. “You get a chance to see films from high school to regional to international all in one night and a lot of filmmakers attend. It’s a high-energy screening. Everybody’s excited to see their movies on the big screen and see them together.”

Short Film Competition Films

This year, the Showcase will be featuring 13 films: 

  1. Second Life: A robot wife, shattered by heartbreak, uncovers the startling revelation of a violent life she was unaware of.
  2. The Tea Party: When Alice's friends unexpectedly show up early for her tea party, her anxiety surges. It manifests the traits of her ADHD as characters from Alice in Wonderland. 
  3. Final Meeting: An anguished mother reunites with her addicted daughter in an attempt to repair their strained bond only to get more than she bargained for. 
  4. The Forgetting Device: A man starts to feel uneasy as he suspects an eerie and malevolent force behind his recent bouts of memory loss.
  5. Summoned: Scientist Igor Benedict discovers a glowing violaceous asteroid and extracts a serum from it. He'll stop at nothing to uncover its true powers.
  6. Breathless Memories: A young man named Chuck stumbles upon a forgotten element from his past. The discovery triggers a profound journey of self-discovery as he seeks inner peace.
  7. Solo Un Ensayo: Two sisters, huddle inside a closet in a house. The younger one believes it’s part of a game. But the older sister understands the grim reality looming just beyond their hiding place.
  8. Hold Your Hand: Following a violent encounter with a stranger, two men find themselves grappling with how to explain the incident to police. The situation is made more complicated by the nature of their relationship.
  9. Wichless: During lunchtime, a student sits alone. Suddenly, a passing girl captures his attention, drawing his gaze toward her.
  10. Out Of The Bag: The two criminals start celebrating prematurely, only to witness a stray cat dialing 911 …
  11. The Pageant: When three conceited high schoolers enter a beauty pageant, their fierce rivalry and obsession with beauty take a deadly turn.
  12. Hunting Bears: Overwhelmed by the mounting responsibilities of caring for his brother, Andy takes a trip down memory lane. Will it hold the key to his troubles?
  13. A Blue Star Apart: Aiden, a despondent miner residing on Praxor-5, readies himself for an intergalactic odyssey with a noble mission: to assist his aging father back on Earth.

After the short film screenings, ticketholders can stop by the Filmmakers Party & Awards at the Canadian Brewhouse. Here they can choose their favorite film that night before the awards are presented. 

Film Festival After Party 

On Friday, October 20, the Barrie Film Festival will host its After Party. The event will take place following a screening of Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe

“Myself and a couple of people in my programming committee had the opportunity to see it at Tiff. To see a childhood, I guess hero in a way, was great for us.” Claudine continues, “[The film] connected with everyone who saw it. And you learned a lot about him but also that he was the way he was on the show.”

The After Party take place at Cowden-Woods where you can enjoy tasty food and live music from the Lisa Hutchison Band. 

The party begins at 9:00 PM (doors open at 8:30 PM). Tickets to the party will be sold separately from the film and include one complimentary drink. 


Every year brings unique opportunities to connect with directors, film subjects, and other key players with post-screening Q&As. 

This year’s festival will include three films with Q&A opportunities. 

Faithe Leone Howe

The first is on Saturday, October 14 following the screening of The Nature Of Healing. This film highlights the spoken truth of seven Survivors of the Mohawk Institute, Canada’s first and longest-running residential school. 

Howe shares, “My own great grandmother as a child had been a resident of the Mohawk Institute, and I had some knowing from what was shared in my family. At my core was a fear that I wouldn’t do it right, that I might inadvertently make misstep and cause additional harm to a group of people who had suffered enough.

“I thought I could create a fundraising video for the memorial park the Survivors were working to build. However, when I sat down with an Elder and he shared for almost two hours, I realized this story was requesting to be told in full. And I was right, it isn’t my story to tell, it is the people who lived it.”

Following the screening, attendees can connect with the film’s director and Elders who survived the Mohawk Institute. Claudine explains, “ [We’re] very honoured to have not only the director Faith Howe … but also, she has invited four to five of the elders who survived the Mohawk Institute and they’ll be here to talk about the film and their experiences.” 

Barri Cohen

The second Q&A will be on Sunday, October 15 following the screening of Huronia’s Forgotten Children. The film is a poignant narrative that begins with a deeply personal family secret. The discovery begins an exploration of the concealed, harsh realities within a government-sanctioned system of cruelty inflicted upon vulnerable children. 

Despite the heartbreaking revelations, the documentary finds redemption in the collective strength of survivors and communities. Through firsthand accounts and the filmmaker's unwavering dedication, the film urges for the acknowledgment and commemoration of these painful experiences.

Claudine shares “People on my programming committee saw it and said we must show this film. So we're excited that the director Barri Cohen is coming to Barrie and so are some of the survivors.”

Rob Freeman

The third Q&A will take place on Saturday, October 21. 

Attendees will have a chance to connect with Rob Freeman, following the screening of his film Drop The Needle. 

This film delves into the story behind Play De Record. It was a Toronto-based record store transformed into a haven for underground music enthusiasts.

Organizers of the Barrie Film Festival were approached by a local group, called School Em Crew, to show this film. The group is going to be showing their music video called CommUNITY as part of the screening.

Claudine explains, “Drop The Needle, set in Toronto, [is a] very important record store that affected the hip-hop movement here in Canada.” 

With 2023 being the 50th Anniversary of hip-hop, the film’s inclusion in the festival is very timely. 

Director’s Brunch

The Director’s Brunch is another of the most anticipated events of the season. It will take place on the last day of the Festival on Sunday, October 22. 

This year's Director's Brunch welcomes the incredibly talented and award-winning director, Kagan Goh. 

Originally from Singapore, Kagan Goh is a Vancouver-based Chinese-Canadian BIPOC multidisciplinary artist. Goh is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, spoken word poet, playwright, actor, mental health advocate, and activist. 

Goh is known for his documentary filmmaking, with notable releases like "Mind Fuck" (1996) and "Breaking the Silence" (2015). His films have been broadcast nationally and featured in respected film festivals across Canada. 

The event will feature the screening of his captivating documentary, Stolen Memories.

In the film, Kagan Goh, accompanied by his 70-year-old detective partner, Mary Seki, embarks on a quest to locate the rightful owners of the lost album, uncover their fate, and return their cherished memories. The documentary not only captures this search but also serves as a poignant act of rectifying past injustices. 

Following the screening, Kagan will engage in a discussion about his film, sharing insights into his creative process and more.

The brunch will kick off with a lavish breakfast buffet featuring an array of food and drinks, including refreshing mimosas.

About The Films 

The 2023 Barrie Film Festival includes 14 feature films. 

1. Subterranean 

With few places on Earth left to discover, caving may be the last remaining activity of true exploration. In this film, two gritty teams of hobbyist cavers are poised to break records for the longest and deepest caves in Canada. 

From abyssal, muddy crawls to heart-pounding, vertical pits and underwater squeezes, Subterranean digs into the oddly fascinating world of cavers to uncover a gripping story of adventure, struggle, and (if they’re lucky) record-setting discovery.

2. Swan Song 

Swan Song immerses viewers inside one of the world’s leading ballet companies as it mounts a legacy-defining new production of Swan Lake, directed by ballet icon Karen Kain on the eve of her retirement. 

Kain and her company granted full access, and the filmmakers followed the film’s subjects for nearly two years through creative conflicts, devastating injuries, personal setbacks, and a pointed push for equity and change from within its ranks.

3. The Nature Of Healing 

The Nature of Healing is the spoken truth of seven Survivors of Mohawk Institute, Canada’s first and longest-running residential school. 

What began as a simple conversation about the Mohawk Village Memorial Park the Survivors have been building for 10 years, became a full-feature documentary. Now it needs to be a completed Park to commemorate the 15,000 children who were taken from more than 60 communities losing their families, communities, culture, identity, and for some, their lives.

The Elders, Grandfathers, and Grandmothers who speak out now, do so not only for themselves, but for the thousands of children across Turtle Island who never could. 

4. Twice Colonized

Aaju Peter is a force of nature. She is a renowned Greenlandic Inuit lawyer and activist who defends the human rights of Indigenous peoples of the Arctic, and a fierce protector of her ancestral lands. 

She works to bring her colonizers in both Canada and Denmark to justice and deploys her effusive spirit and illuminating wit to provoke self-examination and personal responsibility among Westerners for imposing their colonial ways. As Aaju launches an effort to establish an Indigenous forum at the European Union, she also embarks upon a complex and deeply personal journey to mend her own wounds, including the unexpected passing of her youngest son.

5. Joan Baez I Am A Noise 

Joan Baez I Am A Noise is an unusually intimate psychological portrait of legendary folk singer and activist Joan Baez. Neither a conventional biopic nor a traditional concert film, this immersive documentary shifts back and forth through time as it follows Joan on her final tour and delves into her extraordinary archive, including newly discovered home movies, diaries, artwork, therapy tapes, and audio recordings. 

Throughout the film, Baez is remarkably revealing about her life on and off stage - from her lifelong emotional struggles to her civil rights work with MLK and a heartbreaking romance with a young Bob Dylan. A searingly honest look at a living legend, this film is a compelling and deeply personal exploration of an iconic artist who has never told the full truth of her life, as she experienced it, until now.

6. Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children 

Filmmaker Barri Cohen leads part detective story, part social history in Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children as she uncovers the truth about Alfie and Louis, her two long-dead half-brothers. 

Alfie and Louis were institutionalized at the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia in the 1950s, with one brother unceremoniously buried in secret in an unmarked grave as a small child. Their lives were cut short, but their story stands as a microcosm of the immense tragedy of the Western World's 20th-century disastrous treatment of intellectually disabled children and youth. 

Through the interwoven narratives of a POV family story with critical institution survivors, a question preoccupies the film: how do we allow ourselves to dehumanize the most vulnerable people in our care?

7. Flora And Son

Single mom Flora is at a loss about what to do with her rebellious teenage son, Max. Encouraged by the police to find Max a hobby, Flora tries to occupy him with a beat-up acoustic guitar. 

With the help of a washed-up LA musician, Flora and Max discover the transformative power of music. From the musical mind of John Carney, Flora and Son explores the bond between a mother and son on a journey toward a new harmony.

8. The Persian Version 

Coming from two countries at odds with each other, Iranian-American Leila strives to find balance and embrace her opposing cultures, while boldly challenging the labels society is so quick to project upon her. 

When her family reunites in New York City for her father’s heart transplant, Leila navigates her relationships at arm’s length in an effort to keep her “real” life separate from her family life. However, when her secret is unceremoniously revealed, so are the distinct parallels between her life and that of her mother Shireen. 

Punctuated by a bright colour palette, snappy comedic relief, and vibrant dance numbers, The Persian Version delivers an honest portrayal of a woman who remains unapologetically herself, blended seamlessly into a heartfelt story about family, belonging, and the undeniable influence of pop music.

9. Fallen Leaves 

Fallen Leaves takes place in a very personalized version of Helsinki, one intimately familiar to longtime admirers of the Finnish director’s hilariously deadpan, fervently humanist tragicomedies. Ansa and Holappa, spend their waking hours in drab workplaces, bars full of stone-faced patrons, and sparsely decorated homes in which a radio is the height of modern technology. 

Fallen Leaves is among director Aki Kaurismäki’s funniest movies, taking full advantage of all the sight gags and recurring jokes at his disposal. The material just gets richer as the bond between Ansa and Holappa deepens with the couple’s chance for happiness feeling all the more precious due to the film’s only significant acknowledgment of our present moment: news reports on the war in Ukraine, a source of anxiety in a country that shares a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia. 

10. My Mother’s Men 

Elsie, a young woman in her early thirties, receives an unexpected inheritance from her eccentric mother: the mission to reconnect with her five ex-husbands. Confronted with her mother's last wishes, Elsie must reconnect with her past and get back in touch with her former stepfathers and her father with whom she cut ties a long time ago. Five men, five striking and unexpected encounters.

11. The Royal Hotel 

Hanna and Liv are backpacking across Australia when they run out of money and are forced to take jobs at The Royal Hotel, a bar in the outback. They’re immediately confronted by the sea of rowdy men who fill the bar on a daily basis. There’s no varnish to their testosterone and while Billy, the perpetually drunk owner of the pub, toes the line and pushes back on the men when they go too far, he’s also enabled their behaviour in the first place. 

Liv tries to brush off the advances, but this only makes Hanna more anxious, as she starts to worry about her friend’s safety in addition to her own. It’s soon clear that the longer the women stick around, the more likely this continual threat will catch up to them.

12. Mr. Dressup: The Magic Of Make-Believe 

Robert McCallum’s documentary looks at the life and work of Ernie Coombs. The nerdy American artist became one of the CBC’s most beloved children's personalities — a grown-up pal to kids across the country for nearly 30 years, both on his TV show and in innumerable public appearances. 

But there’s more to Mr. Dressup — and this documentary — than a trunk and puppets and tinkly music: it’s about the importance of raising children with kindness, compassion, inclusion, and empathy, and encouraging them to explore the world and making it a little brighter. 

Some construction paper is required.

13. Drop The Needle 

In August 1990, a record store opened on Yonge Street. It quickly began serving the needs of college radio and DJs who spun new sounds far from the mainstream. Through the contagious work ethic and guidance of founder Eugene Tam, organically it became the hub for “Dance” music and the genres that emerged from under that umbrella, fueling and fostering Hip-Hop and Electronic culture. 

Today its impact today on Toronto and by extension Canada is without question. This is the story of Play De Record.

14. Monster

Quiet and reserved Minato — no longer a kid, but not yet an adolescent — lost his father when he was a young child and lives with his mother. When he starts behaving strangely, obsessed with the idea his brain has been switched with a pig’s, the mother suspects his teacher Hori and calls a meeting with the school principal only to face a wall of silence and stiff apologies. 

Someone must have put that idea in Minato’s head, but something doesn’t add up. Is Minato telling the truth, or is his professor innocent? Looking at the story from various points of view, in a Rashomon-inspired structure, reality changes, and the actual subject becomes the hidden friendship between Minato and one of his schoolmates, often bullied by other kids.

2023 Barrie Film Festival Screening Schedule 

Here’s the schedule of screenings and events for the 2023 Barrie Film Festival:

Friday, October 13, 2023

4:00 PM – Subterranean
7:00 PM – Swan Song
9:00 PM – Opening Night Party (offsite)

Saturday, October 14, 2023

1:00 PM – The Nature of Healing – with guest Q&A
4:00 PM – Twice Colonized
7:00 PM – Short Film Showcase
9:00 PM – Filmmakers Party/Awards, The Canadian Brewhouse (offsite)

 Sunday, October 15, 2023

1:00 PM – Joan Baez I Am A Noise
4:00 PM – Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children – with guest Q&A
7:00 PM – Subterranean

Monday, October 16, 2023

4:00 PM – Flora and Son
7:00 PM – Joan Baez I Am A Noise

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

4:00 PM – The Persian Version
7:00 PM – Fallen Leaves

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

4:00 PM – Swan Song
7:00 PM – My Mother’s Men

Thursday, October 19, 2023

4:00 PM – Twice Colonized
7:00 PM – The Royal Hotel

Friday, October 20, 2023

4:00 PM – My Mother’s Men
7:00 PM – Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe
9:00 PM – The After Party, doors open 8:30 PM (offsite)

Saturday, October 21, 2023

1:00 PM – The Persian Version
4:00 PM – Drop the Needle – with guest Q&A
7:30 PM – The Royal Hotel

Sunday, October 22, 2023

11:00 AM – Directors Brunch with Kagan Goh, Liberty North (offsite)
1:00 PM – Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe
4:00 PM – Monster
7:00 PM – Flora and Son (Festival Closer)

All Film Festival screenings will take place at Galaxy Cinemas in the south end of Barrie at 72 Commerce Park Drive. 

Film tickets are $10. Tickets to the Opening Night Party, After Party, and Director’s Brunch are $40 each. 

To get tickets to any of the upcoming screenings, head to the Barrie Film Festival website

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