Northwest Fest: Real life doesn’t have to be depressing 

Friday 04th, May 2018 / 15:57


By Nicole Boychuk 


Adding fun to the documentary and non-fiction film genre 
Image from When They Awake

EDMONTON – Canada’s longest running non-fiction film festival has completely rebranded. After a careful evaluation by festival and program director Guy Lavallee, the NorthwestFest team has worked hard to reach their goal of becoming Western Canada’s premiere non-fiction film and arts festival. Previously known as Global Visions Film Festival, the event aims to create an inclusive, educational and fun atmosphere. 

“We open our doors and minds to everyone,” explains Lavallee.

“We try to program films that tackle a diverse array of topics and reach many interests of all types of people, groups, and communities.”  

Choosing to host the festival in May following important industry film festivals like Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW and HotDocs has been another big change in regards to the type of films Edmonton will be able to see on the big screen.  

Heavy hitters at the festival include Our New President, “The story of Donald Trump’s election told entirely through Russian propaganda”; On Her Shoulders, which follows Yazidi massacre survivor, Nadia Murad; and The Cleaners, the story of the people who have the dirty job of removing the worst images from the web.  

Also playing are films like Kusama – Infinity, which focuses on the renowned Japanese artist; and Bad Reputation, a Joan Jett documentary, which is a huge grab for NWF as it has only screened at Sundance for its premiere. 

Though the team is excited about creating an opportunity for Edmontonians to see critically-acclaimed docs before they hit the general market, they say it’s the small independent films that make NorthwestFest feel complete.  

“Our program is made up of around 30-40 per cent submissions,” says Lavallee.

“It’s really important as a film festival to give these small independent filmmakers exposure so they can go on to become veteran film makers. [Filmmakers] can go to distributors, broadcasters and funders and say, ‘Look, I made this movie on my own with a tiny budget. It’s played these festivals and won this award and this award.’ When you have that in your back pocket, it’s easier to keep making films.” 

“Screening these small independent films and watching them become successful makes everything worth it to us,” he adds.  

NorthwestFest may be primarily video, but in an effort to reach their goal of creating more of a fun atmosphere there will be community driven activities, partnerships with other local not-for-profits, hosting panels and the creation of a podcast series among other events during the festival. 

“Yes, we are doing documentaries that address serious topics, but it’s okay to entertain people as well,” asserts Lavallee.

“You can have some films that may be done in a beautiful manner; entertaining doesn’t have to mean it was funny or that there was song and dance. You might find yourself enlightened and engaged but also entertained by the way the story is told.”  

“10 days of total depression is a bit much for anyone so we try and mix things up for people!” 



NorthwestFest Documentary and Media Arts Festival takes place May 3 – 13 at Garneau Theatre and The Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton). Tickets are available online at, at the door and passes available at TIX on The Square.

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