This year, SWIFF brought a whopping 5,000 people to downtown Sarnia! The festival, which featured premiere screenings, live music events with local artists, swanky parties, film workshops, art exhibits, audience Q&As, and a VR showcase, was a resounding success! Audiences, organizers, volunteers, and filmmakers alike were unanimous in their praises for the spectacular four-day festival that ran from November 3-6.

On the opening Thursday of SWIFF over 400 students from Great Lakes Secondary School and St. Patrick’s Catholic High School got together to watch Breakaway. Not only did students get to see an inspiring indo-Canadian hockey story, but they also got a HUGE pizza lunch from the legendary Giresi’s Pizza Palace!

Oh, and the film’s director, Vinay Virmani, was online for a video Q&A following the screening. Students had an awesome time asking Mr. Virmani some intelligent questions about Indo-Canadian identity and culture. Big ups for linking up with SWIFF, Mr. Virmani!

The marquee at the Imperial Theatre lit UP for our Opening Night film Mean Dreams. The screening was well-attended, and audience members were treated to an enlightening Q&A with director Nathan Morlando following the film.

After the show, SWIFF-goers posed for photos with filmmakers and festival organizers at the opening night party. While munching on Hari’s Famous Spring Rolls and sipping local craft beer from Refined Fool, revelers were treated to a late-night set by The Steve Gravestock Experience! What a kick-off!

Our free family screening this year was the 90s classic Jumanji starring Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt! Families turned up to support Noelle’s Gift: a local charity that celebrates the life of Sarnia teacher Noelle Paquette by organizing lunch bags and school supplies for underserved school children.

With your help, SWIFF raised over $300 for Noelle’s Gift! Thank you Sarnia families for coming out to support your community. Way to go!

SWIFF went late into the night on Friday and Saturday with a unique line-up of Ontario and Michigan-based bands. Music and film buffs flocked to Memorable Moments to see bands play along to their favourite feature-length films.

This included alt-country legends The Sadies, who brought the noise with a rollicking two-hour set alongside a screening of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man! Thank you to all the performers and volunteers that made CineGaze so smooth and so cool.

On Saturday afternoon a packed house watched Angry Inuk: the brand new documentary from filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. This important film explores the world of the Nunavut Inuit population, where seal hunting is central to the community’s culture, economy, and survival. Angry Inuk won the Video On Demand Audience Award at the Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival this year, and it was received just as well as one would expect at SWIFF 2016. The audience gave Ms. Arnaquq-Baril a lengthy standing ovation and generated some stimulating discussion with her via Skype. The most popular question: how can we watch this film again?

Without leaving their seats participants at Lambton County’s first ever Virtual Reality exhibit were able to visit the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, or join a group of free-diving marine biologists studying whales and dolphins one hundred feet below the ocean surface. Hosted by the Judith & Norman ALIX Art Gallery, the exhibit’s cues were always full with those interested in exploring the artistic and educational potential of the VR form. Could it be the future of cinema? You decide.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more SWIFF events programmed for 2017.