Interview with Festival Director Sarah Marshall (Bluenose-Ability Film Festival (BAFF))

Bluenose-Ability Film Festival (BAFF), is Atlantic Canada’s first and only disability focused film festival for adults and youth. Our festival’s taking place Thursday, November 30 through Sunday, December 3, 2017. We’re excited to announce that our theme is Celebrating 150 Years of Diversity, in honour of Canada’s 150 Years of Confederation.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Sarah Marshall: The Bluenose-Ability Film Festival (BAFF) is Atlantic Canada’s first and only disability-focused film festival. We, therefore, offer a unique and open platform for filmmakers to express themselves. Our culture of inclusion allows filmmakers to portray their experiences and perceptions of disability culture in an open and accepting environment.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

This year, you can expect an inviting environment, tons of local and international films, specialty screenings (Such as LGBTQIA+,) a mental health discussion panel, and a glamourous awards gala. This is our third year of operations, and we’ve just undergone a bit of fine-tuning and rebranding. We aim to deliver a modern, unique experience to our community.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

This year, our theme is “150 Years of Diversity,” in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Films must fit with this theme. Diversity is a broad word – we’re seeing films about disability, mental health, immigration, and personal journeys. If the film isn’t directly related to the theme, we ask that the filmmaker be from a diverse background. Other than that, we ask that films be under the 25 minute mark. We also look for technical excellence such as a well-written script, thoughtful cinematography, and good music selection. We, however, have different award categories for all levels of filmmakers. Youth can submit films into their own category. We think it’s important to give new filmmakers an opportunity to tell their stories.

Do you think that some films don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I think that some film festivals ignore work from inexperienced filmmakers and miss out on some important messaging. We offer a community of growth and support to new filmmakers, and offer year-round Future Filmmaker workshops to youth who wish to improve their skills. We also have youth categories so less experienced filmmakers get a chance to rule their own section of the festival.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our main motivation is to provide a unique and creative platform for the disability community to share their stories. There’s a huge lack of diversity in the mainstream film industry. We want to encourage people from all backgrounds to participate in film culture. Our festival encourages disabled actors/actresses to play their own parts, and for diverse filmmakers to tell their stories and experiences without judgement or biases. We also have a scripted category that allows creative individuals to share their own crafted stories.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

It’s been pretty wonderful. We receive tons of submissions, and they’re very easy to assess and download through FilmFreeway. It’s also easy to get in touch with the filmmakers.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

We’d like to expand our attendance and strengthen our relationships with our supports and sponsors. We’d also like to add a few more members to our team. All in all, we just want to see BAFF get bigger and better each year!

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

I’ve watched “The Butterfly Effect” an unreasonable amount of times. Something about the flashback effects and the twisted plot makes me hang on to my seat every time. I’ve also watched the entire “Breaking Bad” series more than once or twice. The cinematography is absolutely stunning.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A unique, engaging story paired with thoughtful artistic choices.

How is the film scene in your city?

There’s a few other film festivals around and quite a booming industry for filmmakers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There’s college programs nearby for film students, and lots of opportunities for filmmakers to showcase their work. BAFF, however, is the only FREE film festival you can find in Halifax. We made the decision to be a free festival so we can be inclusive and accommodating to our entire community. We want to share film culture with everyone, regardless of background or barriers.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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