Sunrise Rotary marks 20 years of alternate cinema

Working with the Film Circuit division of the Toronto International Film Festival, Rotarians continue to bring quality films to Cranbrook

Rockies Film Festival XX coming soon to Cranbrook

Rockies Film Festival XX coming soon to Cranbrook

Darryl Bishop

With the 2017 version of Rockies Film Festival scheduled for Wednesday, March 1 to Saturday, March 4, it is interesting and surprising to note that the first Rockies Canadian FilmFest kicked off 20 years ago at Key City Theatre with screenings of The Sweet Hereafter, The Hanging Garden, Fire, Kissed, and others on April 2, 1998.

An attempt by Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary to find a unique fundraiser, the fest was a step into unknown territory for the fledgling club. That the festival not only succeeded that first year, but continues to the present as a welcome addition to the Cranbrook cultural scene, would be a pleasant surprise to the original organizers who wondered how Cranbrook audiences would respond to alternate film, and especially to some of the more “adventuresome” offerings from the selection of films available that year. But the Sunrise Rotarians need not have worried as the reaction from festival-goers from the first festival to the present has typically been “Thanks for bringing alternate film to Cranbrook”.

The local appreciation of alternate film has allowed festival organizers to bring to Cranbrook a long list of noteworthy films that would otherwise not have screened in our community. Realizing that demand for quality films was strong, Sunrise Rotarians soon began a monthly series with films screening on the first Thursday of each month. In our last year at the Columbia Theatre demand was strong, most films sold out two weeks prior to screening.

Working closely with the Film Circuit division of the Toronto International Film Festival, Rotarians continue to bring quality films to Cranbrook — dramatic, comedic, documentary, foreign films. No matter the genre, our audience support has been wonderful. As well our sponsors’ support has been immensely helpful. This year we have returned to where it all began — The Key City Theatre.

Equipped with the latest technology, the movie experience at the theatre is wonderful albeit without popcorn.

Why do Sunrise Rotarians do this? Well, for the love of film and to generate funds in support of programs and activities of the Sunrise Rotary Club. Over the years the main benefactors of the festival have been local students who have received Undergraduate Scholarships, International Exchange students from Cranbrook, and those who have participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership Award Camps.

So with Rockies Film Festival XX coming soon, it’s possible to look back to 1998 and feel positive about the decisions made at that time. We might have left behind the old portable brass 35mm projectors that experienced periodic breakdowns, we’ve branched out to a much more varied menu of films, and we’ve moved to a venue with up-to-date digital technology. But the festival ambience is still there. Be part of the ongoing festival tradition from March 1 – 4.

Check out our website at www.rockiesfilmfest.com.