The Antigonish International Film Festival (AIFF) celebrated year 10 with this year’s festival which took place Oct. 21 to 23. And for its 10th year, they were joined by a very large audience.
“We were up 25 per cent over last year in terms of attendees per film, which is huge,” Janet Stark, AIFF society president, said.
“We’ve been constant, at least over the last five years I’ve been looking at the stats in terms of numbers per film, so to jump 25 per cent is amazing.”
As for assessing the increase, Stark speculated it might be due, in part, to a greater presence on Facebook.
Director Carole Roy suggested a few other factors which may have played a role, including the presence of St. F.X. service learning students who helped out with the festival.
“That could be one,” Roy said, crediting Stark with getting the students involved.
“I think the fact it was the 10th year anniversary could be another and, possibly, just the program … the films we had.
“Possibly too, more people know about us. We certainly saw people we don’t see every year. I think we’re reaching out beyond that core group who come. It’s hard to tell, it’s not an exact science, but everyone I talked to were very pleased, happy.”
Roy talked about the tendency with the film goers, in regards to how many films the average attendee views.
“I would say people probably watch more than one film,” she said.
“There may be people who come just for Friday night because that’s all they can do, but I would say the average person sees three or four films and there are a few who will see a lot. We had very packed venues this time, people often standing at the back. So even if you see three or four, that’s pretty good.”
Stark talked about one attendee’s story in particular; a gentleman from Illinois whose intended pit-stop in Antigonish, on his way to Cape Breton, became a three-day visit after he noticed the festival was taking place.
“He attended all the festival activities, including the community dinner Saturday evening where he won a door prize,” Stark said. “It was amazing; he was just traveling by himself and he had a great weekend.”
With another successful festival in the books, Stark and Roy paid tribute to those who helped AIFFs year 10 to be a special one, including those sponsors who have been there since the beginning.
“There are 30 sponsors who started with us 10 years ago and are still with us today, they deserve special recognition. For sure, those people deserve a thank you, a huge thank you,” Stark said, adding the 2016 festival had 120 sponsors in total.
“People are very generous in this town.”
Roy talked about the 65 volunteers who helped make the festival happen and then turned her attention to those attending the films, whether they were at the People’s Place Library, Cineplex Theatre or Antigonish Town Hall.
“A festival can’t just happen with volunteers, sponsors, ourselves (society members); it’s really the population, the people who come, that make it a festival,” she said.
“So we’re very grateful to everyone who attends … who takes part in this community event.
“And the people discovering the festival just by coming here as a tourist; I think it gives the town a reputation it’s quite progressive. You don’t need to go to Toronto, you can come to Antigonish for a film festival.”
Roy talked more about the neighbouring venues creating an ideal downtown hub for the festival.
“We’re very happy with the venues; the library is a big anchor and with Cineplex and town hall, all three venues act very well to situate our festival,” Roy said.
“People don’t have to run around very far and it feels like we’re all together even though we’re in different buildings … we really appreciate that too.”