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Thunder Bay International Film Festival goes online

Courtesy Images “Only One World Left” is a 3-minute film that will be one of the many ocean and lake-themed films in the Thunder Bay International Film Festival. “You can swim like a fish, but you can’t hide from ocean plastic. This compelling short by Turkish filmmaker Alican Abaci features fascinating sea creatures and the foreboding impression that if the rate of plastic ocean pollution continues, fish, humans and even the entire planet will become wrapped in plastic.”

ALPENA ­– Film enthusiasts have the opportunity to enjoy the Thunder Bay International Film Festival from the comfort of home this year, as it will be offered in a virtual format for the first time.

The ninth annual Thunder Bay International Film Festival will be held virtually Jan. 20-31.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the festival cannot be held in person at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center as it has been in the past. The festival will feature both paid and free films. About 50 films will be available to watch, from short three-minute films to full-length feature films, all having to do with our waters, from oceans to lakes to rivers.

Film Festival Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla explained some of the benefits of having the festival in an online format this year.

“In addition to allowing you to watch from your own home, the festival will reach so many more people this way,” Gandulla noted. “That’s one of the things I’m excited about is being able to reach these audiences that are far away … Maybe there’s an Australian filmmaker who never could consider coming to Alpena, but now he can much more readily be a part of the festival … It’s kind of going to be a way to engage more and more people and they’re going to want to share it, and I can just imagine people hearing about the festival, and hearing about the Sanctuary and hearing about Alpena that never would have otherwise.”

She added that another benefit of the festival being offered in an online format is that you can watch all the films instead of having to pick and choose which films to see if the timeframes conflicted with each other as they have in past live events.

“TBIFF is a festival of independent ocean and Great Lakes films from all over the world,” the festival website explains. “Themes range from adventure and science to marine life and coastal cultures. Films are selected to not only entertain audiences but also educate and inspire people to participate in environmental and stewardship efforts in and around the ocean and Great Lakes. The Thunder Bay International Film Festival is produced in partnership with the International Ocean Film Festival.”

The festival can also be longer this year because there is no venue to book. The venue is your own home. And you can watch and rewatch the films during the film festival.

“People might end up watching more films because it’s going to be super convenient,” Gandulla said. “You can watch them at any time.”

She added that the virtual option will allow people across the country and world to tune in together, when before, you had to be in Alpena to view the films.

The festival will include online film screenings, livestream interviews, Q&A and panel sessions with filmmakers, scientists, and ocean and Great Lakes stewards.

“You just go online, and it’s actually as simple as using Netflix or watching a movie on Amazon Prime,” Gandulla said. “You do have to enter your email and create an account.”

The links to watch the films are then sent to your email address.

“Some of the programs will be free,” she added. “But most of the programming is either $10 or $12.”

To learn more and select the films you’d like to watch, visit https://thunderbayfriends.org/index.php/film-festival/ and click on the Virtual Film Catalog to purchase single-screening tickets for $10 per feature film or $12 per themed program or shorts program. Or, to gain full access to all the films, themed programs and Q&A sessions in the entire festival during the 12-day period, purchase a Thunder Pass for $100.

Only one Thunder Pass is necessary per household so there is a cost-savings to the virtual format as well.

Browse through the Film Guide to preview the films that will be included in this year’s film festival. Click on a film’s poster to see more information about the film along with its trailer. If you are ready to watch, hit “Select a Showing” to be taken to the TBIFF Virtual Film Festival Platform once the festival starts on Jan. 20.

Includes access to watch all Feature Films, Themed Programs, and Q&As.

Once you have unlocked a film, you will have until Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m. EST to finish watching.

“It definitely will be a different experience,” Gandulla said of the new online format, which will likely be continued as a secondary option in conjunction with future film festivals. “We are going to miss the joy of being together in the theater at Heritage Center watching these films, but it is adding a new element to the film festival that will very likely carry on in years to come even when we are able to get back together in person.”

She added that the films are suitable for middle-school age and older. And pets are welcome to watch them too, from the comfort of home.

For more, call Gandulla at 989-884-6212.

Watch for an article featuring Great Lakes films in an upcoming edition of The Alpena News.

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