Hamilton Film Festival launches 11th season with 150 movie screenings

The Hamilton Film Festival has seen a few changes since its inception 11 years ago.

In that first year, festival director and CEO Nathan Fleet received 26 submissions on DVD and VHS — mostly from his friends.

This year, the festival, running from Saturday, Nov. 5 to Sunday, Nov. 13, is screening 150 feature-length movies, documentaries and short films whittled down from 700 submissions received from countries across the globe.

“This little tiny thing … has turned into something that’s impacting the local film industry,” Fleet said.

The film festival revealed its lineup Tuesday, featuring everything from a five-hour film in Chinese with English subtitles to family-friendly animated shorts. The opening film, “First Round Down,” tells the story of a Hamilton hockey player with a questionable past.

“Hamilton was our target film festival,” said First Round Down producer Marina Cordoni of Toronto. “Hamilton is dear to our hearts because we shot most of the film here, and the storyline of the film is based in Hamilton.”

Forty-seven of the festival’s selections were shot in Hamilton, including “Milton’s Secret,” a feature film starring Donald Sutherland, Michelle Rodrigues and Mia Kershner.

For the first time, the festival also includes an opportunity for filmmakers to pitch their movies to professional distributors.

This industry-only event, called the Canadian Film Market, has drawn Canadian, American and international distributors. Movies that are picked up will have the opportunity to stream on video-on-demand platforms, Netflix or iTunes.

“An event like what we’re doing has never really happened in Hamilton before,” Fleet said. “You can make a movie here and screen movies here, but there’s never been a way to sell a movie.”

Another element of the festival is a convention-style expo on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Digital Canaries film and TV studio. Open to the public, this event will feature vendors, panel discussions and film set tours (offering attendees the chance to take selfies in a jail cell, an ER or the oval office).