Victoria Film Festival movie bags U.S. distribution deal

A Canadian entry in this year’s Victoria Film Festival has snared a distribution deal south of the border, just one of the highlights of the 24th edition of the event.

Halifax filmmaker Cory Bowles’s first feature, Black Cop — about a black man torn about his role as a police officer — has been picked up for distribution in the U.S., where, Bowles said, audiences are eager for honest depictions of the modern black experience.

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The Trailer Park Boys star, who was at the festival in Victoria until Wednesday, announced this week that Samuel Goldwyn Films had acquired his film and planned to roll out the award-winning movie in the U.S.

“It had a really good reception,” festival director Kathy Kay said of Black Cop. Although audience ratings surveys haven’t yet been tallied, Kay said she had heard that there were many five-out-of-five ratings. “Staff kind of gets a sense when the audience turns their ballots in. People really enjoyed the film.”

Kay was proud to see Bowles secure U.S. distribution for his film, which screened twice at this year’s festival. “[Bowles is] a juror for us and has introduced some of the films he selected this year,” she said. “We just love him.”

Bowles — who wrote and directed the 90-minute, micro-budget movie shot in Halifax — said the film has already screened in about a dozen U.S. cities on the festival circuit. It won best narrative feature at the St. Louis International Film Festival.

The movie explores the relationship between the public and police, and examines racial profiling through the eyes of the title character, played by Ronnie Rowe Jr. Inspired by incidents of white police officers shooting unarmed black civilians, Bowles said he wanted to create a character-driven satire that explored complex themes around police race relations.

Reactions to the film in the U.S. have been mostly positive, with some audience members saying it evoked a range of emotions, including anger, Bowles said.

“We want our stories told, and it’s sometimes how we tell those stories … that is scrutinized and sometimes you have gatekeepers that will not let you tell the story that you need to tell,” Bowles, 44, said in an interview, adding that he wanted to focus on the psychological effects of racial profiling.

“The response has been exciting — electric — albeit it’s a hard topic right now for a lot of people. For everybody, really.”

Plans for a theatrical release have not been announced, but Samuel Goldwyn Films said the movie will be available on demand on May 1.

The Victoria Film Festival continues at venues throughout the city and is expected to have drawn 23,000 patrons by the time it wraps on Sunday.

There’s still plenty of activity on the schedule. Director Stephen Campinelli will attend the Silver City screening of his film Indian Horse, while actor Andrew McNee will be at Silver City on Saturday and Sunday for Adventures in Public School. Simon Hunter, who directed Edie, will attend the film’s showing at the Star Cinema. “For the end of the festival, that’s not bad,” Kay said.

While the festival featured films from the U.K., Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan, India and China, Kay heard from fans who wanted even more diversity. “We heard some complaints about not having enough Danish films,” Kay said with a laugh. “We have a whole contingent who love Danish films, including me, but we only found one this year.”

Festival audience favourites Waterboys (which made its Canadian première at this year’s festival) and Romantic Road are among the films that will be held over and shown at The Vic Theatre on Douglas Street in coming days, Kay said.

She expects to see them both in contention for any one of the seven festival awards, which will be announced during the End of Fest bash at 10 Acres Commons on Sunday evening.

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