Belleville’s Docfest week is around the corner, here’s what you need to know

Filmmakers, both local and international, will be showing their works at Belleville’s annual DocFest Feb. 23-25. Photo by Vanilla Bear Films on Unsplash

Belleville’s 13th annual DocFest is coming up and tickets are now on sale.

From February 23 – 25, cinema lovers can explore the downtown while taking in over 50 creative works from local and international filmmakers. Here’s what audience members can expect.

The city has declared the week of Feb. 19-25 as “DocFest week,” offering free parking downtown for people to easily attend the documentary festival taking place in three locations. The Gala event opens the weekend with the musical documentary “Carlos” at the Empire Theatre, followed immediately by a concert where Mexican-born Javier Vazquez brings the music to life.

Throughout the weekend, film-goers can visit the Empire Theatre, the Pinnacle Playhouse and the John M. Parrott Gallery at the Belleville Public Library to catch a variety of shows that the DocFest board says “promote awareness on global and local issues.”

Anyone who can’t come in person, or can’t fit in a must-see showing, also has the option of a virtual viewing. From Feb. 25 to 28, many of the films will be available online with reduced rates for pass holders.

But before the weekend even begins, the films are rolling. Loyalist College students are getting a chance to show their own films this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the college. The budding filmmakers will take part in a live competition to choose the top four films. Those students will go on to have their works shown as part of DocFest weekend, supporting local students in their creative works.

And other local films, topics and artists will be present at the festival, including “The Kilties” by Sean Scally, showing Belleville band The Kilties gaining international fame from 1904-1915; “The Local” by Victor Cooper depicts a Belleville trio working to build an upscale pub in the midst of the pandemic; or Sara’s Prelude by Sara Holton that gives an inside look into her journey from Quinte Ballet School to learning Odile’s solo from Swan Lake at the International Ballet Masterclass in Prague. A full list of both international and local films can be found on DocFest’s website, along with a full schedule to plan your weekend.

This year, DocFest’s Jodi Cooper says the festival has partnered with another annual downtown event: Savour the Chill. Now film-lovers and foodies can intermingle on the streets of downtown to visit the local restaurants that are competing to present the best soup to the public. Cooper says DocFest made sure no one would miss out.

“We are having a break in our films for people to go out and enjoy Savour the Chill and explore the downtown restaurants,” she says.

Passes for the festival are now on sale, with early-bird pricing still available. Cooper says they can either be bought online at www.downtowndocfest.ca or by cash payment at the Belleville Library. Rush tickets can be bought at the door for $13 a showing.

While presenting to Belleville Council on the upcoming festival, Cooper recognized the recent overdose crisis in the downtown core that made national news last week:

“Can I say that the recent negative media coverage hasn’t hurt Docfest? I can’t say that. What I can say is that in 10 days we are going to put on a great film festival in downtown Belleville. And we look forward to welcoming international filmmakers to Belleville, local filmmakers to the festival, volunteers and audience members to Belleville’s downtown.”

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