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If there’s a central theme to the 2020 edition of the Ottawa Adventure Film Festival, it begins with the notion that adventure is for everyone.
“In some respects, we’re broadening the scope of what adventure means this year,” said festival director Mike McKay, a Chelsea-based kayaker and filmmaker who also runs a video production company.
“I’d say we’ve taken a step ahead to showcase work that doesn’t just highlight massive outdoor adventures, which of course we have. But it really hits the mark coming from an industry that’s mostly made up of white dudes.”
Of the 50 films that make up the fourth annual festival, taking place Nov. 13-22, included are productions that spotlight women, Indigenous people, inner-city youths, older folks and members of the LGBTQ community as well as athletes who overcame physical challenges or socio-economic hardship in order to follow their dreams.
McKay screened more than 200 submissions from filmmakers around the world, the most he’s ever received, to make the final selections and group them into programs. He found that the ones that made the most impact often depicted some sort of internal struggle on the part of the adventurer.
“I always find the strongest films are the ones that add the extra layer,” McKay said. “We declined a lot of incredible, all-out action films because they can only carry a program so far.”
Although the full list of films has yet to be announced — it’s being doled out in daily posts on the festival’s social media channels — McKay gives a few examples of adventure films with uncommon depth that are part of this year’s program: Confessions of a Runner featurestrail runner Patrick Vaughan in a story of redemption as he attempts to set a record running the 470-kilometreLebanonMountain Trail; The Long River Home is the tale of two combat veterans, injured in war, who guide a blind navy veteran on a kayak trip through the Grand Canyon; and Stoke Chasers celebrates young female skateboarders and surfers who defy the expectations society places on girls.
“It shows a lot of great imagery of women skateboarding and surfing but it’s a lot more than that,” McKay says of Stoke Chasers, which is directed by California-based filmmaker Jo Anna Edmison. “It’s about how women push past those inner feelings they’ve been taught from the day they learned to listen. It touches on the theme that women are taught to be scared, taught to be averse to getting hurt, taught to play it safe.”
Some of the festival’s screenings are still scheduled to take place at the Mayfair Theatre, the same venue as previous years, assuming it reopens next month after the modified Stage 2 shutdown. If that’s the case, capacity will be limited to 50 people per event and all recommended safety protocols will be followed. The zany Ottawa comedian/storyteller David Brennan is back to host the festivities, along with musical guests Jessica Pearson and the East Wind.
If the lockdown is extended and the cinema remains closed, the festival is ready to roll online, starting with a virtual version of the opening party, Full Send Friday, from 7-10 p.m. on Nov. 13.
In fact, there’s a robust selection of online programming, inspired by the success of a trial run in the spring. The festival mounted a two-part virtual edition, entitled From The Couch, in May and June that attracted legions of new fans.
“At the time it was really just about doing something to keep busy,” said McKay, “but it was a pretty interesting experiment. We had our regular core audience but also quite a lot of people who may not have gone downtown for the festival. It proved there’s a market for virtual events and I think it’s something that’s here to stay for us, regardless.”
A limited number of tickets to the festival’s closing night on Nov. 22 at the Mayfair are now on sale, priced at $30 each. The rest of the in-person Mayfair events will be on sale soon.
Meanwhile, the virtual programs are pay-what-you-can, with a year-long membership available for $100, which includes discounts and incentives from local businesses.
For more information and to buy tickets, go to oaff.ca.