New fest debuts in Stratford

Ontario town better known for stage performances hosts festival about docs and digital media. Organizer looks to bridge culture and technology

‘There’s nothing more dramatic than real life,’ says Craig Thompson, exec producer of DocFest Stratford, a new festival about docs and digital media that bows this week in the small Ontario town.

Thompson says his hometown, already famous for its stage performances, is a perfect venue for the new festival, coproduced by Stratford Media Arts Alliance and his Ballinran Productions.

‘We’re already a strong cultural city; we’re also right next door to Waterloo, which is coming up with amazing technology in the audio-video field,’ he says.

Ten features will screen along with a slate of shorts supplied by Bravo!FACT. Q&A sessions with filmmakers and a digital media workshop for students are also on the schedule, along with a short and digital doc competition for students. Thompson was impressed with the students’ content.

‘Students are very engaged in issues such as the environment, justice, human rights and privacy. The films they submitted certainly weren’t frivolous,’ he says.

The feature screenings are book-ended by two strong Canadian efforts, with Peter Raymont’s A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman kicking things off, followed by John Zaritsky’s The Wild Horse Redemption, about convicts rehabilitating by caring for wild mustangs.

‘We wanted to get films from different countries that reflected varying themes,’ says Thompson. ‘Many are strong motivational films on people rising to take responsibility, to make a difference.’

There’s also some humor, such as in the Aaron Woolf-directed King Corn, a U.S. production making its Canadian premiere.

‘It’s a story about two fellows who plant an acre of corn and follow it through the industry,’ explains Thompson. ‘Being an agricultural part of the province here, I’m sure it’ll have an interesting reception.’

DocFest Stratford runs Thursday through Sunday at Stratford’s City Hall Auditorium.