"Last year we had a German film about black magic. This boy told his father he wanted to see the German Harry Potter movie," says Jason Beaudry. "He's a kid from Cole Harbour who likes BMX biking, but now he also wants to learn German and be a director."
It's been a decade since the ViewFinders International Film Festival was launched by the Atlantic Film Festival Assocation. Beaudry is the festival's third director, quietly succeeding Julie Glaser in early 2010. "I've been learning the ropes over the past year," he says from his office on South Park Street. "I've been involved in film festivals for over a decade, but I've never been with an exclusively youth-based event."
Last week, Beaudry and the programming team announced this year's ViewFinders lineup, which launches Tuesday, April 12, with the anticipated African Cats, a Babies-style "true life adventure" about families of lions and cheetahs directed by Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill (Oceans). On Thursday, April 14, they'll screen Jane's Journey, which travels with Jane Goodall to Tanzania to hang out with her famous chimp friends. (It's a big Goodall month in Halifax---the doctor will speak on April 5 at the Chamber of Commerce's spring dinner.)
"Our motto this year is entertain, enlighten and engage," says Beaudry. "We want you to enjoy yourself, we want you to be entertained, but we want to engage you to go beyond the films and learn something. Something like Jane's Journey will allow you to do that."
There are also a pair of Best of the Fest screenings, one a 10th anniversary screening of films made by past participants, including Film Challenge winners; and a closing gala of the current fest's favourites on April 16. Other highlights include Oscar animation nominee The Gruffalo, a doc about Halifax's parkour community (Being Parkour), Andrea Dorfman's Flawed, Ingrid Veninger's MODRA (followed by a Q&A at Citadel High's new Spatz Theatre) and Mary and Max, an Austrailan animated feature starring Toni Collette and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a story about a man with Asperger's Syndrome, a theme of the Swedish teen drama Simple Simon as well.
"Both of those films really tear down the stigma of that syndrome," says Beaudry, "and provide something through community that isn't regularly provided by Saturday entertainment."
Now that he's seen a full festival cycle, Beaudry realizes that ViewFinders is "so much more than just a film festival, when you're dealing with youth.
"I participated in last year's festival," he says, "but I was really there to observe and understand. One of the biggest things I learned was that ViewFinders is year-round. It is the five-day festival, but it is also school tours, student productions, activities during the Atlantic Film Festival.
"We all have to start somewhere. It's one of the biggest things I always hear. We get to work with the film community on a constant basis, and what I hear most from them is 'I wish something like this was here when I was young.'
"If we can just make a difference in their lives---whether it leads to a career in film, or whether it helps them express themselves."
ViewFinders International Film Festival for Youth