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The Mighty Niagara Film Fest has plans for expansion after wrapping up its most successful year yet last weekend.

About 5,000 people attended events in various locations for the four-day festival, Aug. 16 to 19, organized by the Niagara Artists Centre. Director Stephen Remus sees more in store for 2024, in keeping with the slow growth he stressed when the festival began 2021.

“Our plans for next year are to get the call reaching even further, see if we can draw more submissions, which have grown every year,” he says. “We’ll probably add more screenings.”

One thing he says will definitely be back — the type of movie/live music event the festival brought to Silvertown in Niagara Falls last Friday, dubbed ‘Showdown in Silvertown.’ Held on former railroad lands on Buttery Street (now an ATV park), the show had The Sadies performing to spaghetti western short films edited by local filmmakers.

On a chilly and windy night, Remus says the show attracted about 100 people.“They were loving the hell out of it,” he says. “They were die-hards because it was weirdly cold and windy. But in what looked like the middle of nowhere, we had hot chili, cold beer, a giant projection screen and a full band amped and lit.”

The festival began in 2021 with a mandate to spotlight Niagara content and creators. Other venues for screenings this year included Stratus Winery, the Skyway Drive-In, the rooftop terrace at Niagara Artists Centre and Landmark Cinemas at the Pen Centre.

“We don’t mean to brag, but the fest went head-to-head with ‘Barbie’ screenings twice, at the Landmark and the drive-in, and we outsold ‘Barbie’ both times,” says Remus. “It’s the little victories that keep us going. “It takes awhile to get a festival going and there’s more work to do, but I think Niagara finally has a film fest with staying power.”

A huge change likely in store for next year will be moving the festival to fall or winter instead of its usual summertime slot. Remus says while there are plenty of venues in Niagara, many of them are too busy during the summer to host film festival events. “They don’t need a boost from a festival in August, they want something to draw people to Niagara when they’re not likely to be coming here,” he says. “That’s what we’re looking at now.”

The deadline to submit for the next film festival is July 19, 2024.

John Law is a Niagara Falls-based staff reporter with the Niagara Falls Review, primarily covering arts and culture.

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