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Civic Impact

Scarborough Film Fest brings films beyond downtown core

When French-Estonianin film A lady in Paris screened last night at Queen East's Fox Theater, it marked a milestone for film festivals in Toronto. The film was the very first to be shown as part of the inaugural Scarborough Film Festival.

Unlike the more than 70 film festivals that currently happen annually in Toronto, the Scarborough film fest is the first one to take place outside the downtown core. 
"I always thought this is what Scarborough needs. We need to celebrate Scarborough culture," says festival founder and co-director Sergei Petrov. "I lived in Scarborough for 15 years, I have a background in film, and for the past couple of years I started really thinking about how we could do this project."
"Scarborough itself often has a lot of negative attention in the media and we wanted to do something positive. Our mandate and our goal is to enhance the culture of Scarborough," says Petrov. "We want to engage people from Scarborough to come and watch films, but also to encourage people from the GTA to come into Scarborough."
Last year Petrov took a break from his own filmmaking to devote himself full-time to the project. 
"In 2012, I quit my job and brought a couple of people together--including co-director June Kim--and slowly the festival materialized into what it is right now."
After putting together his team and advisory board, Petrov began approaching sponsors, funders and distributors, to see his dream for the Scarborough Film Fest become a reality. A task, he admits, that was not always easy. 
"It was very very tough [approaching sponsors]. There was definitely a lot of hesitation and their still is. 'What kind of films are you showing?' 'What kind of venues are you using?' 'What kind of guests are you getting come?' But we're a first-time festival so basically we had to say 'trust us.' We'll have an advisory board. All the people on the team are passionate about film, they work in film."
On the other hand, Petrov says the response from the community and from filmmakers has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We had so many volunteers approaching us, we have an all volunteer jury of industry professionals, and we had over 300 film submissions come in. Getting people [filmmakers and community members] excited and interested in the project -- that was the easy part."
Despite some early bumps, Petrov and his team were able to secure the corporate and media sponsors needed to get the film fest up and running.
Over the course of the next five days, the inaugural Scarborough Film Festival will screen 17 films from more than 10 countries. The festival boasts a diverse array of programming, featuring a mix of shorts and features, Canadian content and international. The only overarching theme, says Petrov is "great film."
"Right from the beginning we knew Toronto, and Scarborough in particular, is really diverse -- one of the most diverse areas in the globe. So we wanted to bring something that was interesting to residents of Toronto and Scarborough…people can come out and watch not just their culture but also some other countries and learn about other countries and cultures."
The festival runs until June 9th and films will be screened at the Fox Theater and at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus located at 1265 Military. 
Full schedule and details available here
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Sergei Petrov, founder and co-directer, Scarborough Film Festival
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