The 21st annual Barrie Film Festival (BFF) has it all. Programming for the 10-day festival will include a mix of new releases, short films, parties, and special guests.

The film festival’s lead programmer, Julinda Morrow, says the list of themes offered this year range from family to injustice, social consciousness, adventure, love, humanity, growing pains, coming of age, mental health, music and thought-provoking.

“We are working on bringing in interesting guests to talk about what you will see on the big screen as that is what we love to do best … watch films that make us think and the interesting conversations that follow,” said BFF director Claudine Benoit. “The film audience is very honest about what they think and I love that.”

Some of the films at the Toronto International Festival will also be screened in Barrie. Shoplifters is a Palm d’Or winner and the fourth-highest grossing film in Japan. Hirokazu Kore-eda, who is known for his socially conscious dramas Like Father, Like Son, and  After the Storm, directs this story about a family of small-time crooks who take in a child they find on the street.

Other 2018 TIFF films confirmed for Barrie include Transit, a German drama; Ash Is the Purest White, a Chinese drama; and Carmine Street Guitars, a new documentary that centers on five days in the life of fabled Greenwich Village guitar store.

Benoit expects to have just over 20 current award-winning films from Canada and around the world, a mix of features and documentaries, Some familiar faces include actors Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce and Christian Slater in The Wife; Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci for The Children Act; and comedian Gilda Radner, who reflects on her life and career in her own words through diaries, audiotapes, and videotapes in the documentary Love, Gilda.

“It’s lovely – just what you expect it to be,” said Benoit of the documentary.

The popular short-film competition returns this year with local, Canadian and international entries. There are three submission categories: high school, Simcoe County and open. The shorts are juried and the judge’s picks will be shown in a shorts showcase – around 17-20 films, maximum length 10 minutes – on Oct. 13. The audience will have an opportunity to vote for their favourite film of the night as well as attend a free filmmakers party where the winners will be announced and awards presented.

There is always an opening night party, a fun kick-off to the festival and a gala after-party event which, this year, takes place on Oct. 19. The parties add a lot of excitement to the festival.

BFF also has an educational arm which, last year, accommodated more than 5,000 high school and elementary students. The films are selected for their connection to curriculum, include pre- and post-materials for teachers and are screened separately, during the school day.

Stay tuned to barriefilmfestival.ca for all the details and to purchase advance tickets. The festival runs  Oct. 12-21 at the Uptown Theatre, downtown Barrie.

Photo: Shoplifters is one of 20 films that will be shown in the Barrie Film Festival, Oct. 12-21.

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