Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival was established in 1989 and despite some early skepticism, Sudburians quickly proved that a mining-oriented community could be receptive to repertory film culture as cinema-buffs crowded theatres during the inaugural three-day event. Each year since the Festival has continued to mature and expand. By 1993, Cinéfest Sudbury evolved into a full-service film organization, with the Festival growing to include upwards of 60 films over 5 days. Currently screening approximately 135 films, including full-length features, shorts, documentaries and animation, Cinéfest Sudbury provides cinephiles with first-class film works and industry discourse each September.
Cinéfest Sudbury has a long history of promoting Canadian cinema and supporting our domestic industry. One of the organization’s most ambitious projects was the establishment of the Northern Film Circuit (NFC) in 1992. An attempt to build audiences in Northern Ontario for Canadian and international film, the NFC began with only four members. The NFC was eventually used as a model for The Film Circuit, which was developed in partnership with the Toronto Film Festival Group and now operates in over 110 communities. Still a partner of the Festival, Film Circuit groups flock to Cinéfest each year to preview the best in Canadian and international films.
Constantly working to bring knowledge to the North, Cinéfest introduced Industry Forum to the Festival’s framework in 2003, an initiative that has since provided emerging and mid-career film artists with access to key film representatives, and invited partnerships between the Festival, industry and educational institutions. Since the introduction of Industry Forum, Cinéfest has established itself as a focal point for independent filmmakers, and programmers. While the Festival has a long history of presenting and supporting films that represent the output of Canada’s independent film artists, Cinéfest Sudbury has also over the years extended significant support to its regional film artists. Through programs such as Northern Connections (introduced in 2003), a program which highlights the best and brightest of our regional film talent, and the CTV Best in Shorts Competition, which has awarded over $100,000 in cash prizes to up-and-coming regional film talent since it was established in 2001, the Festival has served as a place for regional artists to have their work seen and celebrated.
Since the overwhelming success of Cinéfest Sudbury in 2003, which saw 80% of Festival screenings either reach or exceed capacity, Festival organizers have worked aggressively to ensure accessibility for its audiences. The Festival Expansion Initiative was developed and launched in 2004, through which the Festival was expanded from 6.5 to 9 days. A plan was also developed at that time to establish Cinéfest as a year-round venue to showcase the best in film. In 2006, Cinéfest Sudbury introduced two new Mini-Festivals (Canadian Spotlight and Show & Tell Children’s Film Showcase). These events are now providing audiences with even greater access to the works of Canadian film artists and are providing area schools with educational and inspirational film works that meet the needs of their curriculums.
In 2010, Cinéfest Sudbury introduced Cinema Summit, a four-day presentation, exchange and development series, devoted to the celebration, promotion and advancement of Canada’s new and emerging filmmaking talent. Aside from expanding the number of film screenings attended by talent associated with selected films, Cinema Summit featured additional panel discussions, master classes and lectures with specific topics of focus, and introduced attendees to experts in the film and media arts industries. Cinema Summit represents Cinéfest’s next efforts to inspire audiences, talent, students and industry.
Also in 2010, Cinéfest Sudbury took the next step further expanding its year-round presence by introducing the Cinéfest Sudbury Film Series, a monthly film presentation series held on the last Thursday of each month, featuring the best in Canadian and International cinema.
In 2013, Cinéfest Sudbury unveiled its 25th Anniversary edition — a celebration that represented for audiences the biggest incarnation of the event in Festival history. With more film screenings than ever before and featuring a large contingent of industry guests and filmmaking talent, the 25th edition of Cinéfest also occurred alongside a booming regional film production industry.