Have you seen Don McKellar?

Niagara Integrated Film Festival

The I’s have it. While many filmgoers are familiar with the initials that make up TIFF, (Toronto International Film Festival), the I of NIFF–Integrated–is integral to the idea of the inaugural Niagara Integrated Film Festival, which is running from June 19th to the 22nd. What makes the integration work so well is the inclusion of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries, (as well as a brewery), that makes the invitation to experience NIFF so incandescent.

When certain media members were invited to preview the festival, it seemed at first to be insipid, but turned out to be inspired. For starters, the bus to Niagara was no ordinary ride, but an illuminated party bus, complete with stripper pole, (which, sadly, went unused). This same bus will be used on the Film Feast tour in NIFF, which will be departing Saturday and Sunday morning, from Niagara College. The idea of this tour is to integrate visits to two different wineries, as well as to the Oast House Brewery. Oast House is a must-visit. We first tasted a beer created in part by Oshawa band Cuff the Duke, called Bound to your own Weisses, (based on their song Bound to your own Vices), paired alongside hors d’oeuvres. The beer was a little spicy, a little sweet and was a fun treat at 11 a.m. The experience at Oast House is intoxicating, as the brewery is housed in a red barn, and the beer is brewed onsite. In addition to a rotating Saison beer, the featured beer is called, appropriately enough, Barnraiser.

The second and third stops on the tour were wineries, and though the ones that we visited are different than the ones featured on the Film Feast tour, they were memorable for the chance to watch the Canada’s Not Short on Talent film program, which recently returned from this year’s Festival de Cannes. Included in the program on the tour is Adam Deviller’s short film Foam Drive Renegades, which was absolutely knockdown, drag-em-out hilarious. Certainly, the wine and beer did not that cloud judgment on this delightfully foul-mouthed film. It centered on a late addition to the crew of a robbery, and really has to be seen (and not talked about), to be fully appreciated. Other stand-outs from Canada’s Not Short on Talent were Next Floor, a grotesque piece directed by the well-known Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve, Subconscious Password, a dreamy, bendy glimpse into the process of remembering someone’s name starring Don McKellar, and Noah, a film that takes place entirely on Facebook, chronicling a change in relationship status. Noah won the 2013 Best Canadian Short Film Award at TIFF, and is worth making the voyage.

While integration is all well and good, the feature films have been carefully curated, and offer some interesting choices. Some choices that leap out are the Canadian premiere of family-friendly Earth to Echo, the Michael C. Hall-starring Cold in July, based on the Joe R. Lansdale book, Frank, a rockin’ road trip, which features Michael Fassbender wearing a giant head throughout, the Ira Sachs directed relationship dramedy Love is Strange, The Only Real Game, a true-to-life Million Dollar Arm, about baseball players from the Indian subcontinet, the Ontario premiere of Scandinavian The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, based on the Jonas Jonasson novel, Jason Priestley’s Cas & Dylan, and Red Obsession, appropriately, the Russell Crowe narrated documentary about Bordeaux wine.

NIFF’s opening night feature is Restrung, directed by Niagara’s own Mike Enns. It is a documentary featuring Randall Wyn Fullmer, who quit his job at Disney to create bass guitars. Once more featuring integration, the evening offers a Filmalicious time at the Trius winery at Hillebrand, (where we watched our host sabre open a bottle of sparkling wine). The program offers dinner and wine pairings prior to the film, followed by a performance by a Jazz trio. Another movie and dinner pairing that looks to be a fun evening is I Am Not a Rockstar, at Peller Estate Winery, which features the director Bobbi Jo Hart, and a performance by the piano prodigy of the movie, Marika Bournaki. Talk about integration.

*I* will be seeing you at NIFF.