Outdoor Movies at Open Roof Festival
I love watching movies outdoors. There’s something that feels slightly subversive, like you shouldn’t be able to see a movie outdoors but you totally are! Typically, I’m restricted to small screen devices to indulge this peccadillo but thanks to the Open Roof Festival in Toronto, I can do it with a big screen. And other people… oh la la.
Spotlight On: Open Roof Festival
Just imagine… you’re hanging out in the backyard with your friends. It’s a beautiful, warm summer night. You’ve got cold beer and hot music playing. Then, against all reason, a movie screen appears and that great movie – the one you meant to see but never got around to – projects on that screen. Sounds like an awesome dream right? Thanks to the Open Roof Festival, Toronto doesn’t have to wake up from that amazing dream because it’s a reality.
Now entering its third season, Open Roof Festival is the brain child of four friends who thought, “Hey, what if…?” Co-founders Michael MacMillian, Sandra Singer, Jordan Nahmias, and Burzin Contractor noticed that Hot Docs staged a couple of open air screenings in New York in partnership with Roof Top Films and they knew that this could work in Toronto. “People seem to eat up artistic and cultural events in Toronto, so we tried it,” says Jordan. “We thought there was a potential opening in the market for a music and film series that was outdoors.”
And the co-founders were correct. It’s a fact that Toronto has a lot of film festivals of this sort and that sort. But an opportunity to see a movie, along with some great independent bands, outdoors in the summer struck a chord with the city. In just three short years, Open Roof Festival has become a seasonal favorite and attendance regularly swells to around 400 per screening. “We thought, ‘Let’s put on something good and give something back to the community,’” says Jordan. “We thought it would be successful but we weren’t really expecting those kind of numbers.”
It also didn’t take long after the initial idea to bring music into the equation. There’s a practical concern, of course. You can’t project a film outdoors until the sun has set. So what better way to pass the time than with a local or indie band. “Well, it came up pretty quickly – why don’t we complement the movies with music. This is a great platform for a band,” says Jordan. “And what started as something pretty organic has evolved into a system. We have a new manager and we’ve got some great bands on board for this summer.”
The Open Roof Festival has also cast an eye to creating a complete experience at each screening this summer. For example, the first screening of the documentary Marley about music legend Bob Marley on June 21, 2012 will also feature local reggae band Friendlyness & the Human Rights and some delicious Jamaican food. Not every screening lends itself so neatly to thematic pairings, but the founders and volunteer staff pay special attention to selections and work to make it an experience.
Careful thought is given to the movies and bands chosen. The Open Roof Festival considers not only what’s hot or what the audience wants to see, but what’s appropriate for a fun summer night. “We try to screen movies that people have heard a lot about, but maybe haven’t seen,” says Jordan. “Like Exit Through the Gift Shop. We screened that last summer and more people knew about it, than had a seen it. But we don’t want anything too serious because it’s summer.”
A careful look at the movies lined up for Summer 2012, reveals a definite slant towards docs. This summer’s screening include not only Marley, but recent SXSW premiere Charles Bradley: Soul of America, and Hot Docs darlings China Heavyweight and Herman’s House, among others. “Okay, we do tend to be doc heavy,” Jordan says with a laugh. “But, we’re okay with that. Again, nothing too serious.”
“We’re not trying to be the TIFF or Hot Docs,” says Jordan. “We’re all really passionate about the arts and we want to give something to the arts community in Toronto. We really just want to show cool movies and have good music outdoors in the summer.” With a roster of impressive sponsors on board like Amerstdam Brewery, Telefilm Canada, Metro News, and Pricewaterhousecoopers, the Open Roof Festival is sure to do just that this summer and hopefully — for the love of cold beer and warm summer nights — for many summers to come.
The Open Roof Festival kicks off on June 21, 2012 with Marley. All screenings are held at the Amsterdam Brewery, 21 Bathurst St. Doors open at 7:30 pm and movies start at sundown. For a complete list of films and bands on tap for this summer, visit the Open Roof Festival website.
This piece was originally published at www.thetfs.ca.