Last week I got to see some of the best and worst things that make Edmonton what it is.
The best came with the Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF). This is certainly the little festival that grew. And this year it has grown even larger. It looks like there was at least a 20 per cent increase in ticket sales over last year.
Though that kind of growth is tremendous, it’s really not surprising. Innovation, creativity, hard work and dedication tend to produce positive results.
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As anyone involved with any of our festivals can tell you, organizing a successful festival isn’t an easy gig. What makes our festivals work is the support of volunteers and the many organizations that donate cash and in kind goods and services. Empire Theatres deserves praise for giving the festival a home that is readily accessible. Kudos to City Centre for the tremendous job it did promoting the festival. The organizers deserve credit for recognizing social media could play a real role in expanding its audience. And, as always, the volunteers deserve congratulations on a job well done.
So what’s the bad thing? This festival has been around for 24 years and in each of those years it has managed to produce great results on a shoestring budget. One would think our civic leaders would want to get behind backing a winner. No such luck.
Though the city does support the festival, its $50,000 cash donation is paltry to say the least and that level of funding hasn’t increased for seven years. Even if the city had just increased funding at the same level taxes were raised during each of those seven years, the EIFF would not have to work as hard as it does to make magic. Last year, the city came up with $750,000 for a winter festival. You might think there would be an extra $50,000 or so it could have forked over to the EIFF. The EIFF is about much more than just showing movies. It’s about showcasing Edmonton and Alberta talent. It’s about showing films that many of us would never get the chance to see.
And it’s about bringing filmmakers here from all over the country and around the world. It also helps marks us as a city where culture and creativity have a permanent home.
We should treat EIFF folks better than we do.