GRFF celebrates their seventh year

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Grand River Film Festival (GRFF), now in its seventh year, has one main aim: to give the Kitchener-Waterloo region more options than just Hollywood-esque films.

“We like to show films that haven’t been shown in the [Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge] region to bring something new to our audiences,” said executive director Tamara Louks in an interview with The Cord.
GRFF brought an eclectic mix of short films, documentaries and feature films to Empire Theatres in Kitchener. Don’t worry if you missed this year—next year’s festival is already being planned.

“We already know what worked really well for us this year … as soon as we finalize our budgets … then we can move on to planning next year’s in a few weeks,”Louks added.

When I Walk – Jason DaSilva (2013)

Jason DaSilva’s documentary When I Walk begins with the innocent scene of DaSilva having difficulty standing up after sitting down. The audience thinks nothing of it—sometimes we all need a bit of help standing up. After numerous family members try to pull him up, it becomes apparent that something deeper is happening.

When I Walk is the seven year journey of DaSilva’s battle with multiple sclerosis. It honestly portrays the journey of a man who has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease and how he and his family cope with the diagnosis. While the subject matter is sympathetic, the film does not demand our sympathy. DaSilva never paints himself as the victim. He showcases the struggles with his diagnosis and the changes it brings to his life—positive and negative—but never wallows in self-pity.

DaSilva also employs the usage of multi-media; in-between scenes, DaSilva animates old artwork of his and creates a cartoon image of himself for scenes where he is not allowed to film.
While the film as a whole was strong, there were some instances where the story came off as rather choppy. The most prevalent example of this is the exact timing of the diagnosis. The audience is not told when DaSilva was actually diagnosed—upon further research, it was discovered that DaSilva was actually diagnosed a year prior to the first scene.

However the positives completely outweigh the minor flaws. Ultimately, this is a positive story of strength, perseverance and coming to terms with your situation.
—Compiled by Cristina Almudevar

Becoming Redwood – Jesse James Miller (2012)

Becoming Redwood, directed by Jesse James Miller, is a charming addition to GRFF. Staring Ryan Grantham, Chad Willet, Derek Hamilton and Jennifer Copping, Becoming Redwood takes an interesting look at family and golf in the ‘70s. This light-hearted comedy is centred on a strikingly unique and well-articulated eleven year old named Redwood, played by Ryan Grantham.

Although his childhood is a complicated one, Redwood manages to find relief in his love for golf. Redwood finds himself grid-locked in an imaginary playoff round of the PGA championship with a pro and believes he’ll be able to reunite his divorced parents with a victory. After his hippy father is arrested on drug charges, Redwood finds himself on his way to California to live with his estranged mother and her new family. As the boy soon discovers, love and compassion is not abundant commodity around the country-side home and struggles to connect with his foreign surroundings and abusive step-dad. With the help of a couple imaginary comedic caddies and encouraging letters from his incarcerated father, Redwood looks to continue his championship game even if no one else really understands

Becoming Redwood is an enjoyable look at the power of a child’s imagination, unlikely relationships and transition of ones identity. By far the highlight of the film is the acting of fourteen year old Ryan Grantham as Redwood, but at times it feels like the film is trying to do too much. While consistently funny, the plot can be slightly confusing in patches and tends to heavily rely on unnecessary quirkiness. The film is also unexpectedly more dramatic than comedic which one wouldn’t be able to tell from its poster or trailer. This also makes it somewhat difficult for the viewer to differentiate between the movies main plot and message,v as there are several unneeded sub-plots occurring at the same time. Although clouded by a few minor annoyances, Becoming Redwood is worth the trip to the theatre.
—Compiled by TJ Mroz

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