On Mar. 7, 2023, the Apollo Cinema hosted to the first annual local journalism film festival organized by the Ink-Stained Wretches.
The festival showcases a series of four films that each spotlight journalism on the first Tuesday of each month from March to June.
The festival aims to raise awareness of the importance of journalism in maintaining a healthy democracy and promoting quality journalism in local communities.
“Simply put, the outlook for the traditional news business has been bleak for the past 15 years. News outlets have closed in hundreds of communities across Canada since 2008. More specifically, according to the Local News Research Project, 470 news outlets in 335 communities across Canada have closed since 2008, compared to the opening of 210 in 147 communities. Survival of the media is critical because journalism is the oxygen of democracy.
“We wanted to give those who appreciate the importance of a healthy local media ecosystem an opportunity to get together, celebrate good journalism, and, for an evening, forget about the crisis in the business.” Chuck Howitt, Freelance Journalist said.
The festival’s organizers hope it boosts awareness of the news media in the community and its vital role in strengthening democracy. Through dramatic stories conveyed in visual form, they hope to inspire people to support their cause. “Success will be measured in continued robust attendance and getting more people to talk about effective journalism,” said Howitt.
The films shown during the festival were selected in collaboration with media partners CBC-KW, CTV Kitchener, The Waterloo Region Record, and Mike Farwell at CityNews.
The Ink-Stained Wretches came together spontaneously when several retired and former Record staffers began communicating via email during the early stages of the pandemic.
The first movie, Writing with Fire, a 2021 documentary about the only news outlet run by women in India, was screened, generating a lot of discussions afterwards about the unique challenges women face covering the news in India. The film was also nominated for an Oscar.
That screening on Mar. 7 saw 76 attendees.
“I would say the response has been robust and enthusiastic. Prior to the screening, Mirko spoke briefly about the origins of the festival. Also giving short speeches of support were Joe Pavia, reporter-editor at CBC-KW and CBC-KW’s community engagement producer Hala Ghonaim,” said Howitt.
The festival will continue with screenings of other films with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on journalist Kim Barket’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle about her time covering the war in Afghanistan; . Whereas on May 2, All the President’s Men, the classic film that inspired
a generation of young journalists, will be screening on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on May 2; an d Network, filmed before the boom in cable news and the rise of the internet on June 6.
The festival benefited from previous campaigns for resolutions and displays of support from municipal councils across Canada.
The Ink-Stained Wretches plan to expand the festival by incorporating new elements, such as a book table featuring books written by local journalists and books about the
Apollo Cinema and the Ink-Stained Wretches raise awareness on journalism. media. They hope to make the festival an annual event and draw attention to the wealth of good journalism movies. “The future of such film festivals is bright based on the attendance at our first screening and the importance of healthy media in communities across Canada. People only need to be made aware of them,” said Howitt.
The festival’s organizers emphasized the significance of community journalism and supported journalism in all shapes and sizes, from international and national down to the local community.
The journalism film fest is one of the Ink-Stained Wretches’ more recent projects. Others have included getting municipalities across Canada to pass resolutions in support of local journalism and raising awareness of the UN World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on May 3. Last year, 15 municipalities in eight provinces recognized WPFD in some fashion, either through mayoral proclamations of lighting a sign in Winnipeg or the clock tower in Mississauga.